The Wildwood Catholic High School boys basketball team left the gym disappointed after a season-opening 60-54 loss to Sacred Heart on Dec. 14.
The Crusaders also left the gym on the verge of a 10-game winning streak.
Wildwood Catholic (10-1) hasn't lost since opening night and has won each of its last six games by double digits.
Atlantic City, ranked No. 1 in The Press Elite 11 with a 11-0 record, is the only local boys team with a longer winning streak.
The Crusaders began their streak the day after the Sacred Heart loss by beating Rancocas Valley 54-47 at Ocean City PBA Tipoff Weekend. Wildwood Catholic also owns a win over Penns Grove (52-39 on Dec. 30) during the streak.
"Sacred Heart outplayed us that night," Wildwood Catholic coach David DeWeese said. "Our kids to their credit came back and refocused the next day. The fact that we came back and got that win propelled us to where we are today."
The victories over Rancocas Valley and Penns Grove have gotten more impressive as the season has progressed.
Penns Grove has lost only to Wildwood Catholic, while Rancocas owns impressive victories over Holy Spirit and Trenton Catholic.
"We have a lot of confidence right now," Crusaders junior forward Ed McWade said. "We've started playing defense really well. We're not giving up easy buckets. Offensively, we're not a selfish team. Anybody can score."
McWade said the Crusaders learned the value of patience in the Sacred Heart loss.
"We were rushing (against Sacred Heart) and taking bad shots," he said. "We had to swing the ball and wear the defense out. We have to make the other team play defense for a minute, so we get easier opportunities."
McWade (11.9 points per game) and junior Jordan Robertson (12 ppg) lead the Crusaders.
The 6-foot-4 McWade has started every game since he was a freshman.
"He's gained a lot of confidence," DeWeese said. "His freshman and sophomore years he was strictly an inside player. Now he can play from the perimeter as well. He can drive by people, which is what he's going to have to be able to do at the next level."
The 6-3 Robertson has the ability to make eye-opening plays. He can drive to the basket for a two-handed dunk or sink a 3-point shot.
"I don't see a ceiling on how good he can be," DeWeese said. "I don't see any kids more athletic than him around here. You combine that with his ability to shoot from perimeter and that makes him a dangerous player."
George Cook, a 5-9 junior, gives Wildwood Catholic steadiness at point guard. Cook replaced T-John Casiello, who started for four seasons as the Crusaders point guard. Casiello now plays for the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, an NCAA Division II school.
"He's the voice of the team," DeWeese said of Cook. "He's a vocal leader. T-John had the ball in his hands 90 percent of the time. George is playing well. He doesn't score a lot. He's not flashy, but he's our toughest defender and takes care of the basketball."
The Crusaders are in contention for the CAL United Division title. Wildwood Catholic now faces a stretch that will determine in large part how the rest of its season unfolds.
The Crusaders host Lower Cape May Regional (0-11) on Saturday, Sacred Heart (6-5) on Tuesday and Cape May Tech (3-8) next Thursday.
Wildwood Catholic then faces Bishop Eustace (7-3 and No. 9 in The Elite 11) in the Jeff Coney Classic at Rancocas Valley on Saturday, Jan. 26.
"We have to continue to get better," DeWeese said. "Other teams are getting better. We've already seen that. We try not to look ahead. We're trying to stay focused on the next opponent."
Contact Michael McGarry:
School Division Overall
Atlantic City 6-0 10-0
Holy Spirit 5-1 6-4
Absegami 3-3 5-5
Egg Harbor Twp. 3-3 7-5
Mainland Regional 3-3 3-7
Millville 1-5 3-6
Vineland 0-6 2-8
Middle Township 6-0 9-2
St. Augustine Prep 5-1 9-1
Hammonton 4-2 10-3
Bridgeton 2-4 3-5
Oakcrest 2-4 3-7
Ocean City 2-4 3-6
Lower Cape May 0-6 0-11
Sacred Heart 7-1 7-5
Wildwood Catholic 6-1 10-1
Pleasantville 4-2 6-4
St. Joseph 4-2 5-6
Cedar Creek 4-3 7-5
Buena Regional 2-5 3-8
Cape May Tech 1-6 3-9
ACIT 0-8 0-10
Cumberland Regional 1-9
Southern Regional 9-3
Lacey Township 3-7
Pinelands Regional 0-10