HAMMONTON - Jordan Robertson sank a 3-pointer that produced one of the most raucous celebrations in the past 20 years of Wildwood Catholic High School boys basketball Thursday night.
That was nothing compared to how Crusaders fans responded after his next basket.
Robertson's 3-pointer with 14.5 seconds left propelled fourth-seeded Wildwood Catholic to stunning 58-54 upset of top-seeded Holy Spirit in the Cape-Atlantic League tournament semifinals at Hammonton.
The 6-foot-4 Robertson clinched the victory with a two-handed dunk that sent Wildwood Catholic fans into a frenzy with 3 seconds left. The crowd stormed the court as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
"This is real exciting," Robertson said. "It's something amazing. This feels so good."
The Crusaders will make their first appearance in a CAL final since the current format began in 1992. They will meet Atlantic City for the title at 2 p.m. Saturday at Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township.
"It took us four years to get to a (CAL) final," senior forward Eddie McWade said. "This has never happened to us before. It's the first time. It's awesome."
Robertson's 3-pointer came with the Crusaders down 54-52. He rubbed off a screen and shot from the right wing. Spirit fouled him on the play. Robertson made the free throw to put the Crusaders up 56-54.
Spirit had the ball with a chance to tie. But Wildwood Catholic guard George Cook knocked the ball away from Spirit. Robertson picked up the lose ball and drove for the clinching dunk.
"It always feels good to get a dunk and make your fans cheer even louder," Robertson said.
Fans nearly filled Hammonton's spacious gym to watch the semifinal. Wildwood Catholic (21-4) is ranked No. 5 in The Press Elite 11, while Spirit (19-6) is No. 6. The Crusaders beat Spirit 48-45. Yet many CAL observers considered the Crusaders the underdog for Thursday's game.
"It feels good to prove people wrong," Robertson said.
Holy Spirit seemed on the verge of taking control of the game on several occasions.
The Spartans led 43-37 with 11 seconds left in the third quarter. Leon Daniels' steal and layup put the Spartans up 49-44 with 5:44 left in the game. Daniels sank two foul shots with four minutes left to put Spirit up 54-47.
The Spartans did not score again.
Wildwood Catholic stayed close behind the inside game of McWade, who scored most of his game-high 20 points in the lane.
He sank four fourth-quarter free throws to help the comeback. The Crusaders finished the game 21-of-23 from the foul line.
Wildwood Catholic called timeout before Robertson's 3-pointer. The play was designed for him.
"Coach (Dave) DeWeese looked at me and told me to shoot it no matter what," Robertson said. "I came out with the mentality that I was going to shoot it."
Robertson finished with 19 points - 11 of them in the fourth quarter.
"He's had an incredible season and tonight he stepped up big in crunch time and gave us what we needed to get the win," DeWeese said. "In the timeout, I told them we were going to run the play. I told Jordan to go out and knock (the 3-pointer) down. He knocked it down."
The Wildwood Catholic bench began to react even before Robertson's clinching dunk. McWade raised his arms over his head before Robertson jumped toward the rim.
Meanwhile, the loss stunned Spirit. Spartans coach Jamie Gillespie sat at the end of the bench as the players slowly walked off the court.
"They made plays in the final two minutes, and we didn't," Gillespie said. "There were plenty of plays to be made on our end, and we didn't. Give the Robertson kid credit. He knocked down a huge shot. But our goal was to win the CAL, and this hurts us pretty badly."
The Crusaders celebrated with friends and family after the game. But they're a senior dominated group, and their goal all season has been to a win the CAL title.
"This is a great win, " DeWeese said, "but it's unfinished business for us. We have to win the Cape-Atlantic title."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Wildwood Catholic 9 14 17 18 - 58
Holy Spirit 12 13 18 11 - 54
WC - K. McWade 1 2-2 4, Cook 0 3-3 3, Robertson 6 5-5 19, Freeman 3 3-4 9, E. McWade 6 8-8 20, Moretti 1 0-0 3. Totals 17 21-23 58.
HS - Daniels 4 2-2 12, Saintel 3 5-5 11, Taylor 3 1-2 8, Middleton 5 3-4 16, Collier 2 2-3 7. Totals 17 13-16 54.
3-pointers - Robertson (2), Moretti WC. Daniels (2), Middleton (3), Taylor, Collier HS.
Records - Wildwood Catholic 21-4; Holy Spirit 19-6