PLEASANTVILLE — The Wildwood Catholic High School boys basketball team showed it can play at any tempo Tuesday.
Pleasantville's tempo was fast-paced and the Crusaders matched that intensity in the first half. The Crusaders overcame a late surge from the Greyhounds in the second half to win 81-72 in a Cape-Atlantic League United Division game.
The Crusaders, No. 5 in The Press Elite 11, improved to 17-1. Already with the top seed virtually locked up in South Jersey Non-Public B, this win inched them closer to locking up the top seed in next week's CAL Tournament.
"I'm very happy so far this season," said Caleb Fields, 18, of Cape May Court House. "That loss against Eastern (Regional on Jan. 27) that was a set back for us and things changed since then. Our practices have changed completely. We're working way harder than we usually did because now we have something to prove."
Fields led the Crusaders with 26 points. His brother, Charles, added 18 points and five rebounds, and sophomore Taj Thweatt scored 14 and grabbed 11 rebounds.
"This was exactly what we expected," Wildwood Catholic coach David DeWeese said. "This was a huge game for (Pleasantville). Playing up here is always difficult and Pleasantville played very hard, they shot very well and they tested us and that's what we need."
Pleasantville came out strong in the first half, leading for much of the first quarter. The Crusaders closed the first quarter on a 7-2 run to tie it 19-19.
Catholic finished the first half strong, leading 37-32 at the break. The Crusaders continued that run into the third quarter, building a 10-point lead before Sahmir Jones completed a 3-point play to cut the lead to seven.
DeWeese called a timeout and made the proper adjustments, resulting in an 11-2 tear that gave Catholic a commanding 57-41 lead. Warner responded with a timeout, and following the break, went on a 14-5 run to close out the third quarter and pull within seven.
"We just had to fight back," said Thweat, 16, of Philadelphia. "It was an on-and-off run. We just had to fight, let the defense work and run the floor, grab rebounds and stuff. Coach told us to that rebounds were the main key."
The Crusaders were able to pull away in the fourth quarter, led by the Fields brothers. Jacob Hopping added four key free throws in the fourth as well.
"If we didn't respond we would have lost this game today," Caleb Fields said.
The Crusaders next play Atlantic City on Thursday at Stockton University. That game is at 7 p.m., and will be crucial for seeding in the CAL Tournament.
"We need tests every night," DeWeese said. "This is a good game going forward in preparation of the Cape-Atlantic League Tournament, the state tournament. When we're not on our best we have to find a way to win and that's what we did."
Divine Anderson led the Greyhounds with 26 points, and Sahmir Jones added 17.
For the Greyhounds, they continue their season Wednesday at Bridgeton and Friday at Cape May Tech. They're hoping those two games will allow them to rebound and hopefully find a spot within the CAL Tournament next week.
"We're looking to bounce back on our feet with the same effort we gave tonight against a very good team," Pleasantville coach Butch Warner said. "We had them on the ropes. We're looking to build off of this momentum in a positive way and keep things going and we should be alright."
Wildwood Catholic;19 18 25 19—81
Pleasantville;19 13 23 17—72
WC—Ca. Field 26, Ch. Field 18, Thweatt 14, White 11, Hopping 10, Capazzoli 2.
P—Anderson 26, S. Jones 17, Torre 10, Growalt 10, Vaughn 6, Wilson 3.
3-pointers—Ca. Fields WC. Anderson 2, S. Jones P.
Records—WC 17-1, P 12-8.