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Fine season has Crusader girls seeking more

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Senior Katie McCallion led the WCHS girls hoops team in assists this season Twenty-one wins, seven losses.

If you told a high school basketball team prior to a season that would be its final record, most would react joyously.

The Wildwood Catholic girls team, however, while happy with its accomplishments, was left wishing for just a bit more.

“I’d feel a lot better about it had we won the Cape(-Atlantic League) championship,” Crusader coach Steve DiPatri said, referencing the team’s close loss to Middle Township in the title game of the eight-team CAL tournament. “I know most people would be jumping up and down after 21 wins. And we did beat Washington Township, we beat Cedar Creek twice, beat St. Joe twice and we played a lot of top-level programs, but yet we don’t have a banner to hang. That kind of sticks in my craw a little. Hopefully that leads us to grow. We learned how to play big games and win big games but now we have to learn how to win championships.”

Two late regular-season conference losses prevented Wildwood Catholic from winning the United Conference title. And an early 15-point lead evaporated in the CAL title game. Later, the team bested Trenton Catholic in its state tournament opener before falling, 77-45, to powerful St. Rose in the second round after trailing by only four at the half.

Still, there were a ton of positives.

“It was an interesting year in a lot of ways,” DiPatri said. “We beat some very good basketball teams and we put together a nice run through the CAL tournament and we had a pretty good run through our conference before that. We got a tough draw for states but I thought we acquitted ourselves well for a game and three quarters. Overall it was a really good year. I think we laid the foundation for what should be an outstanding program for years to come.”

Senior starters Kennedy Johnson, who averaged better than 18 points and 13 rebounds per game, and Katie McCallion, who provided nine points per game and a team-high 74 assists, will graduate. But junior guard Olivia Rulon (10 ppg), freshman forward Danielle Sanderlin (10 ppg, 11.5 rpg) and freshman guard Naiy Saab will return.

“We’re only replacing two starters and in my 17 years as a coach those are the years when you seem to have your best years,” DiPatri said. “We still have some things to learn. A lot of the girls are going to play AAU together in the spring and then hopefully we’ll have a great summer as a team and be ready to go for a new year the Monday after Thanksgiving.”


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