The McCracken sisters are easy to find during the winter.
Just check the Wildwood High School gym.
Mackenzie, a senior, and Maddie, a sophomore, lead a girls basketball team that is expected to contend for a South Jersey Group I title this season.
Their dad, Scott, is the Wildwood boys coach. The girls often attend their own practice and then grab a quick bite before returning to the gym to shoot around after the boys finish their workout.
“We eat, sleep and dream basketball,” Maddie said. “It never gets old. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Scott and Liz McCracken have three daughters — Macie is 9. All three girls have given names that begin with”ma” and end in “ie.”
“It’s pretty dorky, actually,” Maddie said with a laugh. “I don’t know why our parents did it that way.”
With fewer than 300 students, Wildwood has one of the smallest enrollments of any New Jersey public school.
“It’s a great school,” Maddie said. “The teachers care about you so much. Everyone supports each other.”
The basketball teams are the soul of the school. Girls coach Dave Troiano will begin his 39th season with a career record of 658-321 when the Warriors host Schalick at 5 p.m. Friday.
The McCracken sisters know all about the school’s basketball tradition.
They grew up honing their dribbling and shooting skills in the Wildwood gym.
As an 11-year-old, Maddie finished second in The Elks Hoop Shoot national free-throw contest at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. She told a reporter afterward she would one day attend Wildwood and Troiano would be her coach.
“They fell in love with basketball,” Scott said. “They came to the gym right away. I didn’t have to twist their arms.”
The 5-foot-8 Mackenzie was the first sister to arrive at Wildwood and the first to make her mark. She already has scored more than 1,000 career points. Mackenzie averaged 19.6 points and 7.7 rebounds last season.
Maddie started at point guard as a freshman, averaging 10.7 points and 3.7 assists last season.
“They’re different players,” Troiano said. “Mackenzie is the focal point of our offense. Maddie is a true point guard. She sees the floor extremely well. She’s starting to come into her own as a scorer as well.”
The girls mesh well together on the court.
“I guess it’s a sister thing,” Mackenzie said. “Maddie and I know where each other are going to be on the court.”
But they are competitive, and just about everything is a competition to them. Maddie is so competitive that she says she is 5-7 even though the family doctor says she is 5-6. Maddie also consistently says her hair is nicer than Mackenzie’s.
“Maddie loves her hair,” Mackenzie said with a laugh.
Postgame discussions at the family’s North Wildwood home can get interesting.
“Sometimes after games, one of us will say something to the other as constructive criticisms,” Mackenzie said. “The other one takes it out of hand. We get mad at each other. But it’s over in five minutes and then we’re friends again.”
Wildwood finished 18-9 last season, losing to Haddon Township 60-52 in the S.J. Group I quarterfinals. The Warriors have just 11 players on the roster this season.
“If we stay healthy,” Troiano said, “I think we can do quite well. I feel going into most games we’re going to be competitive mostly because of (the McCracken sisters).”
Mackenzie wants to play basketball in college, but this probably will be the last season she and Maddie play on the same team. Maddie says she will miss Mackenzie next season.
“We’re best friends,” Mackenzie said. “We’re almost together 24/7.”
Although this is Mackenzie’s final high school season, the McCracken family era at Wildwood still has a ways to go. Troiano sometimes glances in the gym before a boys practice and sees Macie dribbling through cones to work on her ball-handling skills.
“When Macie gets into high school,” Maddie said, “she’s going to be a beast.”