Eddie McWade defined the Wildwood Catholic High School boys basketball team with his emotion and passion.

The 6-foot-4 senior forward led the Crusaders to a 23-5 record and the Cape-Atlantic League championship. McWade is The Press Male Athlete of the Winter.

"Eddie is the engine that made us go," Wildwood Catholic coach Dave DeWeese said. "He provided the energy that the rest of the team thrives on."

Wildwood Catholic won this season not only because of talent but because of how much energy the Crusaders played with.

McWade averaged 15.7 points and 10.5 rebounds. He played inside, using fundamental post moves to score points. McWade shows his emotions when he plays, pumping his fists after a pivotal basket.

"That's how I've always played," McWade said. "I think it helps our team out."

The final game of McWade's career typified the intensity he plays with. He refused to let his career fade away in the Crusaders' 53-45 loss to Trenton Catholic in South Jersey Non-Public B quarterfinal on March 6.

McWade struggled in the first half.

It would have been easy for him to decide that Trenton Catholic was too good. After all, Wildwood Catholic was a decided underdog.

Instead, McWade played in the second half with the passion and hustle he showed his entire career.

"I was just attacking and trying to get every rebound," McWade said. "

He finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds and nearly led Wildwood Catholic to the upset.

"He is very resilient," DeWeese said. "He would never give up."

McWade helped transform Wildwood Catholic basketball. The Crusaders have a solid basketball tradition. But the past 20 years they haven't been thought of as being on the same level as traditional powers such St. Augustine Prep, Atlantic City, Holy Spirit and Middle Township.

This season, no Cape-Atlantic League team was more impressive than Wildwood Catholic.

"I feel like the whole team accomplished a lot the past four years," McWade said. "We got to play against the best teams in the state, and we pretty much hung with them."

A four-year varsity player, he finished with 1,454 career points. But it just wasn't how he played in games that sparked the Crusaders. It was how he practiced, according to DeWeese.

"Our players saw how hard he works in practice every day," DeWeese said. "He motivates everybody else to work at that level."

Wildwood Catholic nearly closed in 2010 because of low enrollment. The school doesn't have a football team. Basketball is the Crusaders' No. 1 sport.

"We're such a small school, but it only takes 10 people to play basketball," McWade said.

And one player to give that team its identity.

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