WILDWOOD - The Wildwood Catholic High School boys basketball team loves it when Jordan Robertson dunks in practice.
The Crusaders really become enthusiastic when he does it in a game.
Robertson's second-quarter dunk shook Wildwood Catholic out of its doldrums and propelled the Crusaders to a 52-39 win over previously undefeated Penns Grove in the Frank McAlarnen Memorial bracket title game at the Boardwalk Basketball Classic.
"I think the dunk sparked us," Robertson said. "Coach (Dave DeWeese) encourages the team to get real enthusiastic even when I dunk at practice."
Robertson's dunk came with 7 minutes, 7 seconds left in the second quarter. Wildwood Catholic trailed 13-9 before the dunk. Officials had just whistled a technical foul on the Crusaders because they began the second quarter with six players on the court.
Robertson (16 points) caught the ball on the right wing. The 6-foot-4 junior drove baseline, leaped and dunked with one hand. Several Crusaders jumped off the bench to cheer the move. DeWeese urged the bench to cheer louder.
"The coaches have been telling me I need to attack more," Robertson said.
The Classic played at Wildwoods Convention Center featured more than 50 boys and girls teams competing for titles in several four-team brackets. McAlarnen was a highly successful Wildwood Catholic boys basketball coach in the 1950s and 1960s.
Wildwood Catholic (5-1) seemed a step slow early in the game. Penns Grove (5-1) consistently beat the Crusaders down the floor. But Robertson's dunk gave Wildwood Catholic energy.
The Crusaders began the third quarter with a 7-2 run to turn a one-point halftime deficit into 29-25 lead with 3:11 to go in the quarter. Wildwood Catholic never trailed again.
Robertson showed not only outstanding leaping ability, but he also sank 2-of-4 3-point attempts. Crusaders forwards Ed McWade (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Clint Freeman (10 points, 10 rebounds) became more of a force inside as the game went on. The 6-4 McWade scored on several spin moves in the lane off the dribble.
Wildwood Catholic held Penns Grove to two points in the third quarter. Penns Grove finished the game 14-of-55 (25.5 percent) from the field and 9-of-24 (37.5 percent) from the foul line.
"We boxed out better in the second half and limited their second-chance opportunities," McWade said. "They were a lot faster than us, so we just had to sprint back."
On offense, the Crusaders stayed patient against Penns Grove's scrambling pressure defense. Wildwood Catholic committed just eight turnovers. Twice in the fourth quarter, Wade found a wide-open Freeman underneath the basket for layups.
"We made (Penns Grove) work defensively for 32 minutes," DeWeese said. "I think we tired up them out. Each offensive possession we were running 30 seconds off the clock."
Wildwood Catholic, which graduated several key players off last season's 18-9 team, has won five straight since opening the season with a loss at Sacred Heart. The Crusaders now face key Cape-Atlantic League United Division games at home against Pleasantville on Thursday and St. Joseph on Saturday.
"We had a lot of unknowns coming into the season," DeWeese said. "Our goal was to come out of December 4-2. For us to be 5-1 is outstanding. We started out with the loss to Sacred Heart, but we've rebounded with five straight wins against quality teams."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Wildwood Catholic 9 13 7 23-52
Penns Grove 9 14 2 14-39
WC-Cook 2 4-5 8, Robertson 6 2-2 16, Freeman 3 3-3 10, E. McWade 3 9-13 15, Norris 1 0-0 2, Morretti 0 1-2 1. Totals-15 19-25 52.
PG-Wilson 5 0-5 10, Ware 1 1-8 3, Carter 2 1-2 5, Lee 3 0-0 8, Davis 3 5-7 11, Goodson 0 2-2 2. Totals-14 9-24 39.
3-pointers-Robertson (2), Freeman WC; Lee (2) PG.
Records-Catholic 5-1, Penns Grove 5-1.