By BRIAN CUNNIFF
Dom Troiano epitomizes the makeup of this season’s version of the Wildwood High School boys basketball team.
The senior forward saw extremely limited varsity action as a junior.
But now getting his chance as a senior for a team that lost six players from last season, Troiano is thriving for a scrappy Warrior group that has surprised many by winning five of its first seven games.
The latest victory was Thursday’s 51-37 decision over Gloucester Catholic in a key Tri-County Conference Classic Division matchup.
Troiano finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“That’s how it is here – kids need to step up each year,” Wildwood coach Scott McCracken said. “You’re real good one year and you lose a lot of kids and then somebody has to step up. Dom got very few (varsity) minutes last year but he came in this year and we expected him to average 10 rebounds per game and we’re keeping him to it. The key for him is staying on the floor. He fouled out of one game so far and that hurt us but he’s been great the rest of the time for us so far.”
Troiano exited Thursday’s game with season averages of 10.7 points and 8.6 rebounds.
“I just knew I had to step up because I knew the coaches were counting on me,” Troiano said. “I’ve been on the team three years already and I’ve sat varsity and practiced with them so I know what’s expected. I knew I had to prove I could play this year.”
Wildwood started slowly against the Rams (3-4), going nearly the first three minutes without a point. But the Warriors responded to an early 2-0 deficit by going on a 16-0 run that turned the game in their favor for good.
Troiano’s three-pointer a few seconds before the halftime buzzer gave Wildwood a commanding 23-8 lead at the half. Gloucester Catholic got no closer than nine points the rest of the way.
“The kids kind of figured it out,” McCracken said. “In the beginning we weren’t making shots and we weren’t moving the ball but then we made a couple shots and that got us going.
“It starts at the defensive end and five guys boxing out and rebounding. If we can do that, we can be a pretty good basketball team. To hold them to eight points in the first half, that’s really where we won the game. To only give up eight points to a pretty good team, I was really happy with how we defended.”
Junior Hans led all scorers with 20 points for Wildwood, netting 10 of them in the first quarter to fuel the Warriors’ big first-half run. Ernie Troiano, Dom’s brother, added 11 points.
Wildwood was the Tri-County Conference’s overall champion last season, going 14-1. Many figured the Warriors would take a major step back. So far, they’ve proven they can still be a very formidable opponent.
“I’ll be honest, I thought we might struggle, too,” McCracken said. “But winning is contagious and when you start rolling kids start to believe. If you defend and rebound and you believe and play with confidence, you can get some wins.”