ATLANTIC CITY - Jordan Robertson practiced the move he used to score in the final 30 seconds Saturday night countless times.
But not even he was bold enough to imagine he would use it to lead the Wildwood Catholic High School boys basketball team to its biggest win of the season.
The senior forward's driving layup with 21 seconds left propelled the Crusaders to a 49-46 win over Holy Spirit in a Battle by the Bay game at Atlantic City. Robertson's basket came with Wildwood Catholic down a point. Crusaders guard George Cook sank two foul shots with 5.2 seconds left to clinch the victory.
Spirit had led by as many 13 points in the third quarter.
"I practice that move like it's the first quarter," said Robertson, who scored 16 points. "I never thought I would use that move in that situation, but it turned out to work."
Robertson had the ball near half court. He drove left toward the lane and then spun back to his right and went down the middle for the basket.
"I just crossed over," Robertson said. "I saw the Spirit defender was playing me on my shoulder. I like to spin back when that happens. It leaves the lane wide open. It was easy to finish."
Holy Spirit (11-4) is No. 10 in The Press Elite 11, while Wildwood Catholic (12-4) is No. 11. The win establishes the Crusaders as a team to watch in the upcoming Cape-Atlantic League tournament along with Spirit, St. Augustine Prep and Atlantic City.
"We talked about this going to be a signature game for us," Crusaders coach Dave DeWeese said. "It was a message game to tell the other teams at the top of the league that we are in the mix. We are definitely in the mix."
The game's final four minutes tested the emotions of both schools' fans. There were five lead changes in the final 3 minutes, 46 seconds.
Wildwood Catholic took its first lead with 2:44 left in the game when a Spirit player received a technical foul. The technical cost the Spartans the lead and possession. Robertson sank both foul shots to put the Crusaders up 43-42.
"We lost our composure," Spirit coach Jamie Gillespie said. "We can't have those things happen."
Robertson's move produced roars from the crowd.
"That was a big-time move at a big-time time," DeWeese said. "That's what you have to have to win games like these."
Spirit had the ball twice in the final 15 seconds. After Robertson's basket, the Spartans committed a turnover when a player inadvertently stepped out of bounds. After Cook's foul shots, Spirit missed a desperation 3-pointer near the buzzer.
Spirit seemed headed for an easy victory through the game's first 20 minutes. The Spartans got balanced and sometimes spectacular scoring. Forward Junior Saintel dunked twice on fast breaks.
Meanwhile, Wildwood Catholic struggled for shots. The Crusaders sank just 6-of-17 shots and committed nine turnovers in the first half.
Saintel grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to put Spirit up 30-17 with 5 minutes, 12 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Crusaders then found their offense. Wildwood Catholic got back into the game with a 12-2 run. Robertson and Kevin McWade finished that stretch with back-to-back 3-pointers to cut Spirit's lead to 34-31 with 1:26 left in the third.
Spirit concentrated on stopping Crusaders forward Eddie McWade (12 points, eight rebounds) and Robertson. Guard Kevin McWade - Eddie's younger brother - sank 3-of-4 3-pointers to loosen up the Spirit defense.
"We started to stand too much defensively," Gillespie said. "We didn't make the plays we needed to make. To their credit, they did."
The loss left Spirit frustrated and the Crusaders ecstatic.
"This is the biggest win of our careers," Robertson said.
Contact Michael McGarry:
Wildwood Catholic 11 4 16 18-49
Holy Spirit 16 10 13 7-49
WC- K. McWade 4 0-0 11, Cook 0 4-4 4, Robertson 5 4-5 16, Freeman 2 0-0 4, McWade 5 2-4 12, Bell 1 0-0 2, Darby 0 0-1 0. Totals-17 10-14 49.
HS- Daniels 1 0-0 2, Saintel 4 0-0 8, Taylor 3 3-5 10, Middleton 2 3-4 8, Sommers 3 0-0 8, Collier 3 0-0 8, Jones 1 0-0 2. Totals-17 6-9 46.
3-pointers-Robertson (2), K. McWade (3) WC. Taylor, Middleton, Sommers (2), Collieer (2) HS..
Records-Wildwood Catholic 12-4; Holy Spirit 11-4.