WILDWOOD - Star center Kennedy Johnson found herself in early foul trouble for the Wildwood Catholic High School girls basketball team.
While she was forced to sit out precious minutes for the Crusaders, someone needed to step up. That someone was a freshman.
Danielle Sanderlin, a 6-foot forward from Williamstown, scored 11 points and got a game-high 16 rebounds to help Wildwood Catholic beat Wildwood 48-39 Monday on the opening day of the 16th annual Boardwalk Basketball Classic at the Wildwoods Convention Center.
"Danielle played very very well tonight, especially for a freshman in her first real big game," Crusaders coach Steve DiPatri said. "I thought she did a really nice job going to the glass, and she controlled the boards for us for sure, especially with Kennedy on the bench."
Johnson and the rest of the Crusaders got in early foul trouble. In the first half, Johnson had three fouls, and the Crusaders had 11 total.
"It's always frustrating when we get into foul trouble," Johnson said. "I just have to deal with it and just come in the third quarter, and when I come back out to just play harder."
Wildwood took advantage of Catholic's early struggles. The Warriors were aggressive to the ball and forced Catholic to shoot from outside.
"We felt that once Kennedy got in foul trouble, we thought about taking the ball to the basket and being more aggressive," Wildwood coach Dave Troiano said.
Wildwood led 15-14 at halftime, with 10 of the Warriors' points coming from the free-throw line.
It also allowed Sanderlin to break out in her first big high school game. She scored a team-high five points in the first half.
"I think I did all right," Sanderlin said of her overall performance. "I could have been better on the boards and getting my points up and actually squaring up and shooting.
"It was OK because it was hard to not have (Johnson) out there to help me, so I did all right."
DiPatri settled his team in the second half, Johnson said. It showed as the Crusaders came flying out in the third quarter, using a 13-2 run to jump out to a commanding 27-17 lead.
"Coach told us to stick with our game plan and do what he says we have to do, so we did that," Johnson said. "First quarter, I found myself in some foul trouble."
Johnson took over the third quarter, scoring 10 of her 12 points. She added seven rebounds on the game.
"We just knew that we didn't want to lose the game," Johnson said. "We knew we were the better team. We just had to come out hard and win the game because it's a big rivalry game."
The rivals, who co-host the tournament, play in the Andrew Alameno Girls Island Championship Game each year. This year, the game was extra special as the Byrne Family Foundation helped fund a new court at the convention center.
Alameno was a native of Wildwood Crest and graduate of Wildwood Catholic. He was killed in the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.
Before the game, both coaches talked about how nice the new court was as well, as the opportunity to play somewhere other than a high school gymnasium.
The tournament began with four games Monday and will continue Thursday through Monday, Dec. 30. Teams from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia will participate in an event that bills itself as the largest single-venue coed high school basketball tournament in the country.
Contact John Russo:
Wildwood Cath. 6 8 17 17-48
Wildwood 6 9 5 19-39
WC-McCallion 3 3-4 9, Andress 0 1-2 1, Rulon 3 2-2 8, Johnson 6 0-0 12, Sabb 1 2-4 5, Mulholland 1 0-0 2, Sanderlin 5 1-5 11. Totals-19 9-18 48.
W-Jillian Freeman 1 1-2 3, McCraken 3 0-1 6, Huber 1 2-3 4, Reyes 2 4-7 8, Jessica Freeman 4 9-12 18. Totals-11 16-25 39.
3-pointers-Sabb WC. Jessica Freeman W.
Records-W.C. 2-0, W 1-1.