OCEAN CITY — It almost seemed routine as the long-range shots kept falling Saturday afternoon.
The Wildwood High School girls basketball team made 10 3-pointers en route to a 55-49 victory over ACIT in the 97.3 ESPN Girls Basketball Shootout at Ocean City High School.
“That is something we do every day at practice,” Wildwood coach Teresa Cunniff said. “We shoot, shoot and shoot until we can’t shoot anymore, just to get into game situations like this.”
Wildwood improved to 13-2, while ACIT, ranked No. 10 in the Press Elite 11, fell to 12-2.
The Warriors’ Imene Fathi, a freshman, made four 3-pointers, and Jenna Hans, a sophomore, made three.
“We always try to do that,” said Fathi, 14, of North Wildwood. “We practice every day, so that really helps, and it transfers into the game.”
Fathi scored 16 points and grabbed two rebounds, while Hans scored 13 to go with eight rebounds and three assists. Fathi and Hans each had one steal.
“I was really excited,” Hans, 15, of Wildwood said. “It gave me the confidence to just keep shooting, and it gave my team the (spark) to go out and keep playing hard.
“My mindset was, no matter how big they were, just play with 100 percent effort, share the ball and win.”
The Warriors are a young team that features only one senior, Maddie McCracken, and one junior, Gabby Keoughan.
Despite the lack of experience, Wildwood won its fifth consecutive game and is in second place behind Gloucester Catholic (11-3) in the Tri-County Conference Classic Division. The Rams are undefeated in divisional play, giving them the advantage in the standings.
“We are very young,” Cunniff said. “We just told them (before the game) that they have to be patient and take care of the ball, and you have to do the little things right. That is what we preach everyday.”
Wildwood led 16-8 after the first quarter and 24-16 at halftime. The Warriors mastered the perimeter shot in the first half, scoring most of their points outside the paint.
The Warriors’ Maddie McCracken scored a game-high 17 and had five assists, five steals and three rebounds.
“We wanted to make a statement,” said the 17-year-old from North Wildwood. “We knew ACIT is a really respected team, and they are in (The Press) Elite 11. We knew if we won, it would be a huge statement to other teams in the county.”
“We are on a roll, so just keep ‘em coming. I think we will take advantage of this big win, and hopefully it gives us more momentum for the next games.”
ACIT coach Jason Vander Ryk said his team drifted from its game plan in the first half. He said Wildwood had good defensive pressure, so the Red Hawks made adjustments at halftime.
The Red Hawks outscored the Warriors 21-17 in the third quarter. ACIT made six second-half 3-pointers and eventually had the lead late in the fourth quarter.
“It was a big game with two really, really great teams facing off,” Vander Ryk said. “I think we both came ready to play, Wildwood came out red hot and shot the ball really well.”
The Red Hawks’ Kayla Sykes, Julianna Montero and Jakyra Williams each scored 10.
Cea’anai Jackson had a game-high 17 rebounds, and Williams added 15. Montero had six assists and Sykes four.
“I’m proud of my girls. We were down double digits at one point and could’ve just folded, but we kept fighting back. We fought hard for 32 minutes. I look forward to the next challenge.”
ACIT;8 21 12—49
Wildwood;16 8 17 14—55
W: McCracken 17, Fathi 16, Hans 13, Gallo 3, Benichou 3, Torence 3.
ACIT: Sykes 10, Montero 10 Williams 10, Grant 8 Speer 6, Jackson 5.
3-pointers: Fathi (4), Hans (3), Benichou, Gallo, Keoughan W; Speer (2), Grant (2), Sykes, Montero.
Records: W 13-2; ACIT 12-2.