WILDWOOD - Wildwood High School girls basketball coach Dave Troiano spent his 890th game Tuesday pacing the sideline with the same energy and intensity he displayed in the first game of his career 35 seasons ago.
He barked plays against Cape May Tech with a booming voice that has been heard in Wildwood's tiny gym since 1977.
The 65-year-old implored the Warriors to maintain their defensive intensity and placed his hands on his head in exasperation after turnovers.
Only after the final buzzer sounded on a 60-46 victory did he acknowledge the cheers and tears from the fans in recognition of his 600th career win.
"This isn't just about me," Troiano told a crowd that included several former players, parents and longtime fans of the program. "It's about all the people who have been involved with this for 35 years. Just today I was thinking about all the players, all of the assistant coaches who have always done a fantastic job. I just want to say thank you and hopefully we can do this again for 700 wins."
Win number 600 was never in doubt.
Wildwood (12-5) took control against Cape May Tech (2-13) in the first half of their nonleague game by grabbing a 35-15 lead. Cape May Tech played much better in the second half, outscoring the Warriors 31-25, but the Hawks couldn't get closer than 12 points.
Jessica Freeman led the Warriors with 21 points and Serena Seijo added 12. Cezanne Czworkowski topped Cape May Tech with 17 points.
"I told the girls before the game to just relax," Troiano said. "I didn't want them to be as nervous as I was."
Freeman, a junior forward, recently became the seventh girls basketball player in school history to score 1,000 points.
The first was Lisa Schultz, a 1979 graduate whose 1,071 points are even more impressive considering they were earned in an era that did not have a 3-point line and teams rarely played more than 25 games in a season.
Schultz, a retired captain with the Cape May County Sheriff's Department, was on hand to celebrate Troiano's milestone Tuesday. As soon as the game ended, fans brandished a banner that read "Congratulations Coach Troiano. ... 600 Wins" while other supporters held up a homemade sign. Troiano was also given a commemorative game ball and a cake.
"I haven't been able to get to a lot of games in the last few years because of some medical issues, but I wouldn't have missed this for anything," said Schultz, who joined Troiano on the court and took photos with her iPad. "Coach Troiano is such a great guy and a terrific mentor. He's done so many good things for so many girls since he's been here. Anybody who had the privilege of playing for him should count themselves as lucky."
Schultz was a junior center on Troiano's first team in the 1977-78 season. Troiano, a Pittsburgh native, was also a teacher at Wildwood before retiring six years ago. He began his coaching career as an assistant to Wildwood boys basketball coach Bernie McCracken before taking over the girls program.
His tenure began with a victory over Oakcrest.
"I can probably remember something about every one of our games," said Troiano, whose career record is now 600-290. "I remember that we beat Oakcrest our first game, and I remember that our winning streak ended at one. Our second game was against Ocean City, which won something like 100 games in a row back then."
Troiano has guided the Warriors to four state Group I championships and has won eight South Jersey titles. The first state crown came in 1991, when current Warriors assistant coach Teresa Polini-Cunniff was a star guard.
Polini-Cunniff, who scored 1,305 points, laughed at the suggestion that Troiano has somehow mellowed over the years.
"It was certainly an experience playing for him," she said. "He always demands the best out of his players and hasn't changed. Even with a game like tonight, you still saw him ranting and raving. I don't think he'll ever change."
Troiano plans on relying on that coaching philosophy for the indefinite future. He has no plans on stepping down as long as he still enjoys it and judging by Tuesday's game, his enthusiasm hasn't waned.
And as long as he's a coach, he won't be pacing the sideline for any other team except Wildwood.
"Wildwood, to me, is a very special place," Troiano said. "I wouldn't want to coach anywhere else."
Contact David Weinberg:
Cape May Tech - 7 8 13 18-46
Wildwood 17 18 10 15-60
CMT-Je. McAnulty 2 4-5 9, Ju. McAnulty 3 0-0 7, Czworkowski 7 2-2 17, Walker 1 0-0 2, Sittiniri 1 2-4 5, Johnson 3 0-1 6. Totals 18 8-12 46.
W-Freeman 10 0-0 21, K. Toland 0 3-4 3, Aydelotte 0 2-2 2, Seijo 4 4-5 12, Huber 4 1-1 9, Farlow 0 1-2 1, Reyes 5 0-0 10, N. Toland 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 11-14 60.
3-pointers-Ju. McAnulty, Czworkowski, Sittiniri CMT; Freeman W.
Records-Cape May Tech 2-13; Wildwood 12-5.
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