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Crusaders dominate in CAL title game

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Members of the WCHS boys hoops team hold up 4 fingers in reference to their tournament seeding after winning the CAL title game over ACHS GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – Kevin McWade missed a free throw with 5 ½ minutes remaining in the game. With three opponents surrounding the basketball, the junior guard hustled from the foul line, tipped the ball away, dove on the floor to retrieve it and flipped it to a teammate.

It was the kind of play that epitomized the Wildwood Catholic High School boys basketball team’s effort against Atlantic City in Saturday afternoon’s Cape-Atlantic League championship game at Richard Stockton College.

Out-toughing and out-defending what is traditionally the toughest and best defensive team in the CAL, Wildwood Catholic used big runs at the start of both halves to establish surprising start-to-finish dominance in a 61-33 demolition of the two-time defending CAL champion Vikings.

The Crusaders, seeded fourth in the eight-team tournament, improved to 22-4. The program has won at least 20 games for three straight seasons.

“This is a culmination of four years of hard work,” Wildwood Catholic coach Dave DeWeese said. “They have worked so hard toward this moment. To get here was great, but the victory on Thursday night (over Holy Spirit in the semifinal round) wouldn’t have meant a thing unless we came in and won today. We certainly came in and took care of business.”

Jordan Robertson scored a game-high 25 points in the win for WCHS The Crusaders opened the game with a 15-2 spurt that led to a 26-10 halftime lead. They then exploded for a 13-2 run to start the second half. From there, there was no doubt about who the winner would be. Only the final score was in question.

“The run we had (to start the) second half was huge,” DeWeese said. “We knew they were going to come out after us. We responded by continuing to attack the basket. We made them pay for pressuring us and that turned the game totally in our favor.”

Third-seeded Atlantic City (18-7) made only six field goals and scored just 13 points through three quarters. The 33 total points for the game by the Vikings represented the lowest total ever by a team in a CAL title game dating back to when the league began holding such games in 1992. The 28-point margin of victory is also the highest in CAL title game history.

“We all know how good their defense can be. In our program, we have tried to emulate Atlantic City’s defense,” DeWeese said. “Today, we showed that we got there. Our defense was smothering, especially in the first half.”

Wildwood Catholic's student body came out in large numbers to support their team in the CAL title game With quite a few college scouts in attendance, including one from Temple, senior forward Jordan Robertson turned in another stellar performance for the Crusaders. He made 10 of 18 shots from the floor and scored a game-high 25 points. Four of those points came on two thunderous fourth-quarter dunks that sent a large Crusader crowd into a frenzy. He also made two three-pointers and a couple of mid-range jump shots to go with a couple of other dazzling finishes at the rim.

“We definitely didn’t think we were going to win it like this,” Robertson said. “But we came out and played hard from the start and we did what we needed to do to get the win.

“It’s amazing, it really is. We knew we could get here but we knew we’d have to play extremely hard and extremely well to win it. To do it like this is amazing for me and my teammates.”

Eddie McWade added 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds for Wildwood Catholic, which shot 50 percent (22 for 44) from the floor for the game. Conversely, Atlantic City made only 12 of 52 chances from the field (23.1 percent).

Wildwood Catholic also out-rebounded the Vikings by 39-28.

“We talked about how rebounding the ball was going to be huge in this game,” DeWeese said. “We knew we could play good defense but what good does that do you if you can’t rebound the ball and you give them extra possessions? Right from the start, we had all five guys on the floor boxing out and rebounding. That was a big factor in us winning the game.”

Eddie McWade scored 15 points and claimed 11 rebounds for WCHS in the CAL title game victory. Many of Wildwood Catholic’s players and fans held up four fingers on each hand during the postgame celebration in reference to the team being seeded fourth in the tournament, a placement that surprised some observers who thought the Crusaders could have been seeded as high as No. 1.

The CAL championship is Wildwood Catholic’s first since 1969, its first season in the league.

“Winning this means a lot,” Wildwood Catholic senior guard George Cook said. “It means a lot to our school and it means a lot to Wildwood. We felt disrespected they gave us a four seed. But it gave us motivation to go out and win a championship.”

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