By BRIAN CUNNIFF
WILDWOOD – This time, the Wildwood High School boys basketball team’s comeback effort fell just short.
Trailing by 17 points early in the fourth quarter of the Bernie McCracken Memorial Boys Bracket title game at the Boardwalk Basketball Classic, Wildwood put forth an incredible rally but couldn’t come all the way back, losing 54-49 to Phoenixville (Pa.).
“We played with a little more energy there at the end,” said Wildwood coach Scott McCracken. “It gave us a little momentum. Unfortunately we couldn’t do it the whole game but we did enough that it kept us in it all the way to the end.”
A basket in the lane by Zaavier Mayo gave Phoenixville its largest lead of the game at 49-32 with less than five minutes to play.
The Warriors refused to go away. Three-point baskets on consecutive possessions by Junior Hans and Jordan Fusick kickstarted a 17-3 run that brought Wildwood to within three at 52-49 with 24 seconds remaining. But Phoenixville’s Chase McDonnell made a pair of free throws and the Phantoms sealed the win when Wildwood missed a three-pointer with 11 seconds to go.
“Our kids played hard,” McCracken said. “They always play hard.”
Junior Hans led Wildwood (3-2) with 13 points, scoring 11 after halftime. Fusik and Ernie Troiano each added 11.
Wildwood shot just 4 for 22 on three-point shots and 17 for 52 overall from the floor and was only 8 for 15 from the foul line.
But the Warriors’ tenacious effort and perimeter defense kept the team in the game to the finish against a Phoenixville team that at times had three players on the court at least two inches taller than any Warrior player.
“We’re not blessed with a lot of size but we need to do a better job of boxing out,” McCracken said. “If we do the right things we can still be a good basketball team.”
Mayo led Phoenixville with 17 points. McDonnell and Gabe Massenberg each added 10.
Wildwood had reached the bracket title game thanks to a triple-overtime win over Brandywine (Del.) on Tuesday in a game the Warriors trailed 10-1 at the start and by seven in the third quarter.