NORTH WILDWOOD – An established veteran and a rising star led the Wildwood Catholic High School boys basketball team to a victory in the quarterfinal round of the Cape-Atlantic League playoff tournament Tuesday.
Junior Caleb Fields scored 23 points, including the 1,000th of his career, and freshman Taj Thweatt posted 24 points and 13 rebounds as the third-seeded Crusaders topped No. 6 Ocean City, 79-66.
Wildwood Catholic advances to play second-seeded Atlantic City in a tournament semifinal on Thursday at Absegami High School. Atlantic City was a 71-55 winner over No. 7 Millville in its quarterfinal game.
Wildwood Catholic faced Atlantic City during the regular season, losing 71-65 at home on Jan. 6.
“We had a shot at them but we let it slip away,” Wildwood Catholic coach Dave DeWeese said. We were hoping for another opportunity to play them. We’ll see if we can step up to the challenge.”
Fields and Thweatt led a torrid shooting effort by the Crusaders (15-9) in the win over Ocean City (16-8). Fields made 11 of 17 shots from the floor, one of which was a left-wing three-pointer in the third quarter that gave him his 1,000th point.
“The milestone for me was really to get the win,” Fields said. “I told my teammates that. We needed to get the win first and get to the semifinal.”
Thweatt, a 6-5 freshman, sank 11 of 13 shots from the field. Nine of his baskets were on layups after passes from teammates or off offensive rebounds. Two others were on thunderous two-handed dunks.
“Taj was an absolute beast,” DeWeese said. “This was his best game of the year. He played so hard and so well.”
Wildwood Catholic led by four points at intermission. The Crusaders began the second half on a 12-3 run to take a 50-37 lead. Ocean City cut the deficit to 50-44 on a rare seven-point possession thanks to a shooting foul, a technical foul and three-point shot. Senior Luciano scored Lubrano scored all seven by making all four free throws and a three-pointer.
Wildwood Catholic responded, finishing the period on a 10-4 surge to go ahead by 10 at the close of the quarter.
“We played very well offensively in the first half but very poorly defensively in the first half,” DeWeese said. “We wanted to get some stops right away to start the second half and we did and that kind of allowed us to establish control of the game.”
Ocean City got no closer than nine points in the fourth quarter.
Trey Smith added 15 points and Ryan Legler chipped in 11 points for the Crusaders, who shot 34 for 56 from the floor for the game.
Lubrano poured in 31 points for Ocean City, leaving him one point shy of 1,000 for his career. Luke Varallo added 15 points.