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Enjoyable 18-win season for Lady Warriors

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Wildwood's JEss Freeman finished her career with 1750 points There are many people associated with South Jersey high school basketball who judge a team by its championships. They want to know if a team won its league or claimed a South Jersey championship before they’ll call it a successful season.

But that’s really a poor way to quantify a team’s effort.

Take the Wildwood High School girls basketball team, for example.

The Lady Warriors went into this season with two big injury question marks, as Jess Freeman (back) and Heydiah Farlow (knee) were hampered at the season’s outset. Freeman carried her debilitating condition through the season.

They also had no player in its regular rotation taller than 5-7 and didn’t have much overall depth. In last week’s second-round playoff loss to Audubon, for example, Wildwood actually finished the game with four players on the court after a handful of teammates had fouled out.

So to finish the season at 18-6?

Count head coach Dave Troiano as ecstatic.

“The beginning of the season was such a big question mark, obviously with Jess and then also with Heydiah,” Troiano said. “I felt if we got them back we could be in good shape. Did I think we were going to win 18 games? Probably not, just based on the fact that size was always a problem for us no matter who we played. For us, winning 18 games and a playoff game, I was more than satisfied with the season.”

Freeman finished her career as one of the most prolific scorers in Cape May County girls basketball history with 1,750 points over her four years. She averaged 20.7 per game as a senior, to go along with 9.2 rebounds per game. Not bad for a 5-6 to 5-7 guard playing out of position at small forward.

“I think a lot of people probably overlooked her rebounding,” Troiano said of Freeman. “Almost every single game she was our leading rebounder. In some games she was getting 15, 16 rebounds and she had a lot of double-doubles. Her defense really improved the last couple years, too. When she first came to Wildwood her defense left a lot to be desired but she really improved on that.

“Her whole game improved a lot. This year with some other people coming around offensively she was getting three to four assists every game, too. Her whole game became much more rounded her junior and senior year. I certainly didn’t look at her as just a scorer the last couple years. She really improved all aspects of her game. And we won more games every year over her career. I think that means a lot, too.”

Gritty undersized forward Mackenzie Huber also graduates this year. But Freeman’s sophomore younger sister, Jillian, as well as Farlow, junior Leishley Reyes (11.1 ppg) and freshman Mackenzie McCracken (6.3 ppg) all return.

“Jillian really came on this year and after the first half of the season Mackenzie McCracken really came on,” Troiano said. “With Leishly returning next year I think she’ll really break out. I think she held back a little bit because Jess was our go-to person but next year she knows she’s going to have to pick it up. We’re going to have to replace Jess’ 20 points per game somewhere. It may be by committee but Leishly will definitely have to pick up a lot of that. With Mackenzie, Jillian and Leishly, again we’ll be small, but I think all things considered we’re in decent shape going into next year.”

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