HAMILTON TOWNSHIP - The Wildwood Catholic High School boys basketball team played with resiliency and determination Thursday night.
That, however, was not enough to overcome the talent of Trenton Catholic Academy.
The Iron Mikes rallied in the fourth quarter to beat a gutsy Wildwood Catholic 53-45 in a South Jersey Non-Public B quarterfinal. Wildwood Catholic led by five with 6 minutes, 16 seconds left in the game.
Forward Eddie McWade (17 points, 11 rebounds) sparked the Crusaders. Wildwood Catholic forward Jordan Robertson scored 16 points with Temple coach Fran Dunphy in the stands watching him.
"It's frustrating," McWade said. "We were up five. We were in it. It hurts."
Despite one of the best seasons in school history, the Crusaders came into Thursday's game as the underdog. Wildwood Catholic (23-5) was the No. 8 seed and No. 4 in The Press Elite 11. Trenton Catholic (21-5) is the top seed and No. 2 in The Press Elite 11.
The Iron Mikes also feature junior guard Malachi Richardson, who has already committed to Syracuse University. Richardson (21 points) showed his talent by sinking two long-range 3-pointers in the first quarter.
The Crusaders trailed by 11 at halftime, but they showed their grit by beginning the third quarter with a 12-0 run. McWade's driving layup with 3:07 left in the third gave the Crusaders a 26-25 lead.
"We came out in the third quarter and finally started executing on offense," Wildwood Catholic coach Dave DeWeese said. "We also played tremendous defense. We turned the game around"
McWade typified Wildwood Catholic's second-half effort. He scored just three points in the first half.
"I was just trying to get every rebound I could," he said.
Wildwood Catholic fans began to dream of an upset in early in the fourth quarter. Clinton Freeman grabbed a rebound and scored with 6:16 left to give the Crusaders a 34-29 lead.
The game, the momentum and the lead then changed in a matter of seconds.
One play was pivotal. McWade missed a foul shot with Wildwood Catholic up two points. Robertson grabbed the rebound and seemed headed for an easy put back basket.
But Trenton Catholic's Richmond Arirguzoh came from the other side of the rim and blocked the shot. The Iron Mikes pushed the ball quickly down court and Myles Powell (14 points) sank a long-range 3-pointer from the right wing to give Trenton Catholic a 35-34 lead with 5:20 left.
Moments later Richardson pulled up and sank a 3-pointer from beyond NBA range off the dribble. The Crusaders trailed 40-34 and would never challenge again.
"We've been in a lot of tough games this season," Trenton Catholic coach Fred Falchi said. "They're well coached. This is a good win for us."
The Wildwood Catholic locker room was quiet after the game. The Crusaders are a senior-dominated team. They produced one of the best seasons in school history, winning the Cape-Atlantic League title.
That was of little comfort Thursday, however. DeWeese told his team not to let the loss define their season.
"This is by far my favorite group," DeWeese said.
Contact Michael McGarry: