WILDWOOD — Maddie McCracken left the South Jersey Group I semifinal for the first time with 14.9 seconds remaining Saturday afternoon.

The Wildwood High School girls basketball fans gave her a standing ovation.

McCracken deserved the applause and the rest.

The senior guard scored 23 points as the top-seeded Warriors advanced to the sectional final with a 42-31 win over fifth-seeded Schalick. Wildwood (21-8) will host the title game at 5 p.m. Monday against second-seeded Haddon Township (23-6).

“My motivation was that I don’t want to end my season,” McCracken said. “I don’t want to end my career.”

McCracken scored all but seven of Wildwood’s 22 second-half points. She also finished the game with six assists and four rebounds.

“In the second half, she needs the ball in her hands,” Wildwood coach Teresa Cunniff said. “We’re going back to the (championship). I can’t wait.”

Wildwood also got critical contributions from sophomore forward Jenna Hans, who scored six points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Freshman guard Imene Fathi sparked the Wildwood defense with four steals.

Wildwood is the top seed in the sectional, but Schalick beat the Warriors 45-38 in a Feb. 14 regular-season game.

The Warriors and McCracken started slowly Saturday.

Schalick sank four 3-pointers in the first half and led by as many as seven in the second quarter.

“I don’t think we were sluggish,” Cunniff said. “We just didn’t knock down any shots. Sometimes that happens.”

Hans turned the game in Wildwood’s favor. She sank two 3-pointers as Wildwood finished the second quarter with a 10-2 run to take a 20-19 lead.

“They changed the whole momentum of the game,” Cunniff said of the 3s. “Now, we’re playing easier, and they’re playing tense.”

McCracken finished the run by banking in a drive with 51 seconds left. The Warriors never trailed again.

“We relied on our defense, which we preach about every day,” Cunniff said. “We got some turnovers. We got some easy baskets, and we got back in the groove.”

McCracken clinched the victory when she sank back-to-back driving layups to put the Warriors up 37-27 with 4:04 left.

This will be Wildwood’s second S.J. final appearance in three years. Wildwood beat Haddon Township 42-31 at home to win the 2017 title.

“We were here two years ago, and we won it on this court, Cunniff said. “I would love to do that again. Only two players (McCracken and junior Gabby Keoughan) on this team were on that team. I got a bunch of freshman and sophomore. I’m ecstatic for them. It’s awesome.”

Schalick 11 8 6 6 – 31

Wildwood 6 14 11 11 – 42

SC — Bell 12, Chomo 5, Creighton 3, Einstein 6, Furbush 5

WW — Benichou 3, Fathi 5, Hans 6, Keoughan 3, McCracken 23, Troiano 2

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