WILDWOOD — It might have been just the third game of a long season, but the result made the Wildwood Catholic High School girls basketball team smile like it was March.
The Crusaders dominated from the second quarter on and beat rival Wildwood 63-44 to win the Andrew Alameno Island Championship at Wildwoods Convention Center on Wednesday. Wildwood Catholic took the lead for good by outscoring the Warriors 18-2 in the second quarter. Caitlin McMullan led the Crusaders with 16 points.
“This means everything,” McMullan, a North Wildwood resident, said of the victory. “It’s bragging rights. It’s really a big thing going into Christmas. This is a good jump start for the rest of the season.”
The Alameno championships match the Wildwood and Wildwood Catholic boys and girls basketball teams. The games are named in honor of Alameno, a Wildwood Catholic graduate and a former Wildwood Crest resident who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Wednesday’s games capped the first day of the Boardwalk Basketball Classic, which resumes Saturday and concludes Dec. 30.
Both girls teams began Wednesday with a 2-0 records.
Wildwood Catholic started slowly. Mackenzie McCracken (24 points) scored eight points in the first quarter as the Warriors led by three after the first eight minutes.
The Crusaders then scored the first 15 points of the second quarter to build a lead they never relinquished. McMullan grabbed an offensive rebound and sank a 3-pointer from the left wing during the surge.
Wildwood’s only basket of the quarter came when McCracken sank a 7-foot jumper with 22 seconds left.
Lauren Moretti (12 points) of Wildwood Catholic finished the second quarter with a 3-pointer with four seconds left to give the Crusaders a 13-point halftime lead.
“We feed off each other,” McMullan said. “When one of us does something good, we want someone else to do well. We’re all best friends. We thrive off of each other.”
Wildwood Catholic forward Mary Gomez (11 points, eight rebounds) helped make sure there would be no Wildwood second-half comeback. The 5-11 junior from Lower Township scored four baskets — two of them after grabbing offensive rebounds and all of them in the lane — Wildwood never got closer than nine points in the third quarter. The Crusaders dominated inside, finishing the game with 42 points scored in the lane.
Wildwood Catholic also made its mark on the perimeter. McMullan finished the third quarter with a 3-pointer at the buzzer from NBA range to put Wildwood Catholic up 49-33.
The Crusaders used their depth to wear down Wildwood. Wildwood Catholic also got strong efforts from Eileen McNulty (eight points and four assists) and Briel Herbert (eight points), who drew roars from the crowd when she shook her defender with a behind-the-back dribble and drove for a fourth-quarter layup.
Wildwood Catholic’s 3-0 start establishes it as a team to watch in the Cape-Atlantic League United Division.
“I’m pleased where we are,” Crusaders coach Steve DiPatri said. “We have kids who are buying into the system. Tonight (Wednesday) was a program win. We got contributions from a number of kids, and I think going forward that’s going to be important for us.”
Wildwood Catholic 11 18 20 14 — 63
Wildwood 14 2 17 11 — 44
WC – McNulty 8, Moretti 12, Gomez, 11, Herbert 8, McMullan 16, Johnson 4, Jackson 2, Coyle 2
WW – Mac. McCracken 24, Mad. McCracken 4, Concepion-McGrath 2, Freeman 13, Lugo 1
3-pointers – WC. Moretti (2), McMullan (2); WW. Mad McCracken
Records – Wildwood Catholic 3-0; Wildwood 2-1