WILDWOOD — Wildwood High School girls basketball standout Maddie McCracken had to settle for a personal milestone Monday.
The senior became the seventh local girl to reach the 2,000-point career mark, but her high school career ended with a 45-39 loss to Haddon Township in the South Jersey Group I championship game.
“It felt good to do that, but it’s definitely bittersweet,” McCracken said. “My ultimate goal was for us to win the South Jersey championship, and we didn’t accomplish that.”
McCracken reached 2,000 points by converting a pair of free throws with 1 minute, 55 seconds left in regulation. Officials stopped the game, and a capacity crowd applauded when she was presented with flowers and a basketball.
She scored 22 points to reach 2,001 for her career. She joins Wildwood’s Monica Johnson (3,173), Lower Cape May Regional’s Lauren Holden (2,476), Atlantic Christian’s Dakota Hitchner (2,327), Sacred Heart’s Ashley Durham (2,201), Egg Harbor Township’s Shea Matlock (2,167) and Atlantic City’s Valeria Jones (2,046) in the girls 2,000-point club.
Her value to the program extended well beyond her scoring ability. When McCracken emerged from the locker room 30 minutes after the game, more than 100 fans greeted her with an ovation.
“We’re a young team, and this was a good learning experience for us,” Wildwood coach Teresa Cunniff said. “But I’m sad that Maddie’s leaving because she’s been the backbone of our team. We’re going to miss her because she adds so much to our program. She played her heart out tonight.”
An enthusiastic, loud crowd filled Wildwood’s tiny gym in hopes of seeing the top-seeded Warriors (21-9) win their 10th S.J. title and second in three years.
Sophomore center Jenna Hans had them cheering when she scored nine of Wildwood’s 11 points in the first quarter on a pair of three-pointers and a three-point play.
The gym was rocking in the second quarter, when freshman guard Imene Fathi hit a pair of 3s during a 15-0 run that gave Wildwood a 21-14 lead with three minutes left in the first half.
But second-seeded Haddon Township (24-6) wasn’t rattled.
The Hawks, who lost at Wildwood 42-31 in the 2017 title game, took a 28-25 lead on Kayleigh Armstrong’s 3-pointer with 5:19 remaining in the third quarter and never trailed again.
Haddon Township advanced to the state Group I semifinals, where they will face Bound Brook or Middlesex on Wednesday.
Senior forward Madison Bradley was the difference for the Hawks. She muscled through the paint for 12 of her game-high 24 points in the first quarter, then added 12 more in the second half.
“We knew what it felt like to walk out of this gym after a loss,” Bradley said. “And we didn’t want it to happen again.”
Despite their inexperience — Wildwood started two sophomores and a freshman — the Warriors didn’t wilt but were unable to regain any offensive rhythm down the stretch.
McCracken’s 3-pointer with a minute left in the third quarter was the Warriors’ last field goal. Wildwood’s final nine points, including all seven in the fourth quarter, came from the foul line.
“We’re a young team, and they were jittery all day,” Cunniff said. “But they played tough the whole game, and I’m really proud of them.”
Haddon Township 14 4 17 10 — 45
Wildwood 11 10 11 7 — 39
HT — Bradley 24, Armstrong 6, Getzinger 4, Farhan 8, Walsh 3.
WW — McCracken 22, Fathi 6, Hans 11.
3-pointers: Armstrong (2), Walsh HT; Fathi (2), Hans (2), McCracken WW.
Records: Haddon Township 24-6; Wildwood 21-9.