HAMMONTON - The St. Joseph High School boys basketball team trailed Wildwood Catholic in the fourth quarter Tuesday night.
St. Joe needed to score quickly but open shots were few and far between. Wildwood Catholic defenders relentlessly hounded St. Joe ball handlers.
The Crusaders man-to-man defense sparked Wildwood Catholic to a 53-42 road win in the Cape-Atlantic League United Division game. The Crusaders held St. Joe without a basket for nearly seven minutes in the second half.
"We disrupted their offense with our defense," Wildwood Catholic coach Dave DeWeese said. "They run good stuff. The run great sets. But we took them out of that (Tuesday)."
The game featured two of the top teams in the United Division. Wildwood Catholic (5-2) is No. 11 in The Press Elite11 and the defending division champion. St. Joe was off to an impressive 4-0 start.
The game was physical with players of both teams diving on the floor for loose balls.
Guard Kevin McWade and forward Jordan Robertson keyed the Wildwood Catholic defense.
St. Joe guard Charlie Riccardi and forward Ben Mitchell came into the game with a combined scoring average of nearly 35 points. They combined for 11 points Tuesday. Robertson covered Mitchell, while McWade hounded Riccardi all over the court.
"I just face-guarded (Riccardi)," McWade said. "I didn't care about the ball. I just watched his eyes. You have to keep your head. You can't take a play off."
Ed McWade, Kevin's older brother, Robertson and Clinton Freeman took turns leading the Wildwood Catholic offense.
Ed McWade dominated in the lane in the first quarter with 11 points and three rebounds. He scored nine straight points to give the Crusaders an 11-5 lead with 3 minutes, 23 seconds left in the first quarter. Wildwood Catholic never trailed again.
Robertson scored eight points in the second quarter, including a fast-break dunk at the buzzer to give Wildwood Catholic a 26-21 halftime lead.
Freeman scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half. The 6-foot-5 Freeman sank a 3-pointer from the left wing and then used his bulk to sink the rest of his baskets in the lane.
St. Joe never got closer than six points in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats struggled for baskets. Jordan Lyles sank a 3-pointer with 1:49 left in the third quarter to cut Wildwood Catholic's lead to 32-26. St. Joe wouldn't get another basket until LaQuay Brown (14 points) scored with 2:42 left to again cut the Crusaders lead to six points.
"There were some spots where we just made some mistakes," St. Joe coach Tim Gallagher said. "We knew we were going to see that type of stifling aggressive defense. I thought we would react better and make better decisions."
With the win, Wildwood Catholic takes a step toward winning the United Division and getting an automatic berth in the CAL Tournament. The Crusaders trip to St. Joe figured to be one of their toughest division games.
"That is a very, very good St. Joe team," DeWeese said. "They're going to get a ton of wins. We saw them as one of our biggest rivals. To come to their place and win, puts us in the driver's seat. That was our focus."
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