WILDWOOD — A dramatic second-half comeback by the Wildwood High School girls basketball team fell one point short on Wednesday.

Wildwood trailed by as much as 14 points against Woodbury in their South Jersey Group I quarterfinal game. Wildwood, the defending South Jersey Group I champion, led by Maddie McCracken, came back in the fourth quarter to lead three times before Woodbury pulled out a 51-50 victory.

Woodbury’s Kayla Rone gave her team the win as she scored a basket underneath with seven seconds left to play.

The Warriors called timeout on their final possession with 6.2 seconds left, and McCracken dribbled the length of the court with defenders on her. McCracken was closely guarded near the basket and her driving shot with two seconds left rolled off the rim. The Warriors didn’t get a second shot off.

Woodbury, the sixth seed in South Jersey Group I, improved to 17-10 on the year, while third-seeded Wildwood ends at 20-8.

“I’m full of emotions right now,” said Wildwood’s first-year head coach Teresa Cunniff. “We were down early and fought back and spent a lot of energy. We got what we wanted on the last play, but we were unlucky. It just didn’t go in.”

McCracken, a 5-foot-8 junior guard, led all scorers with 33 points. McCracken’s final field goal was a twisting drive with 20 seconds left that put the Warriors up 50-49.

Others made big plays for Wildwood in the second half and the home crowd went wild each time the Warriors took the lead. Woodbury led 41-37 with under five minutes remaining, but Wildwood’s Jenna Hans connected with a 3-pointer from beyond the key and teammate Tracey Young added a field goal to put Wildwood ahead 42-41.

The game was tied at 45-45, but Michelle Lugo hit a 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 40 seconds left to put the Warriors up 48-45.

Wildwood’s Gabby Keoughan beat the third-quarter buzzer to cut the Woodbury lead to 40-31.

“We made a great team effort in the comeback and a lot of people contributed,” Cunniff said. “We played well defensively and got some steals and stops.”

Woodbury junior guard DarRique Smith scored 25 points, including 18 in the first half. The Thundering Herd was up 26-12 with three minutes left in the second quarter and led 29-18 at halftime. Rone, a 6-foot senior, added 17 points, including 12 in the second half.

“You have to have heart in the playoffs and we had it,” Woodbury coach Tara Hartwyk said. “McCracken made her shots, but we kept calm and didn’t panic. Kayla Rone made an awesome play at the end. She’s a senior who’s coming off an ACL injury. We had so many big plays from so many people. I’m so proud of the team.”

Contact: 609-272-7210 GGargan@pressofac.com

Woodbury 13 16 11 11—51

Wildwood 5 13 13 19—50

WW—McCracken 33, Young 3, Lugo 3, Hans 5, Benichou 2, Keoughan 4.

W—Smith 25, Nichols 2, Stine 5, Pierce 2, Rone 17.

3-pointers—Smith (3), Stine W; McCracken (3), Lugo, Hans.

Records—Wildwood 20-8; Woodbury 17-10.

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Contact: 609-272-7210

GGargan@pressofac.com

Staff Writer

I’ve been at The Press since January of 1983. I cover all sports in general, but mostly lifeguard racing, and high school field hockey, football, swimming, basketball, crew, baseball and softball.

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