The Wildwood High School and Wildwood Catholic Academy basketball teams will be playing some important games later this season.  The Warriors girls and boys squads are in the hunt for Tri-County Conference division titles and could also contend for South Jersey Group I championships.

Barring an upset, the Crusader girls will be playing in the Cape-Atlantic League tournament final and will be factors in the State Non-Public B tournament.

But they just played their biggest game of the year.

Wildwood and Wildwood Catholic might go on to earn league, sectional and/or even state titles. They could get police escorts through town and hang banners from the rafters of the gymnasium.

But trust me on this. Ten, 20, or 30 years from now, when the players, coaches, and fans are asked about their favorite memories of the 2023-24 basketball season, they will recount the excitement, thrills and chills they got while playing one another at Wildwood High last Saturday.

Wildwood High School in Cape may County, New Jersey
Photo from Google Maps

Fans from both schools crammed into the Warriors’ cozy gym to watch the renewal of a rivalry that stretches back decades.  Nearly 300 more spectators – including me - followed the action on

“We knew it was going to be crazy coming in here,” Crusaders forward Ava Vogdes told CapeAtlanticLive after WCA’s 61-55 victory. “It was just awesome to be in the gym and in that atmosphere. I loved it. I grew up watching this rivalry, so it was amazing to finally be able to play Wildwood in front of that kind of crowd.”

Both games were tense, exciting contests that ended with Wildwood Catholic winning. The Crusaders overcame an amazing, 37-point performance by Warriors junior guard Macie McCracken to earn a 61-55 win.

In the boys showdown, WCA senior Charlie Dunner scored a team-high 18 points in a 60-55 victory. Jordan Fusik led Wildwood with a game-high 19 points, including five three-pointers.

“The atmosphere was crazy,” Dunner told CapeAtlanticLive. “The gym was jumping. I played against a lot of those guys growing up, so it was awesome to be able to do it again.”

It was the first meeting between the two boys programs since they met at Wildwood Convention Hall in the Boardwalk Classic in December of 2017.

The drought was even longer for the girls game. The Crusaders and Warriors hadn’t played since the Boardwalk Classic in 2015.

Explanations for the hiatus vary.  WCA was one of the state’s top teams for a time behind coach Dave DeWeese and standouts such Caleb Fields, Taj Thweatt and Jahlil White.

Wildwood Catholic High School located in North Wildwood, New Jersey
Photo from Google Maps

The Crusaders girls program got a boost a few years ago when Sacred Heart closed its doors. Coach Steve DiPatri took over at Wildwood Catholic and was joined by future Michigan State player Kennedy Johnson.

Wildwood, one of the state’s smallest public schools, could always hold its own in girls basketball behind coaches Dave Troiano and Teresa Cunniff, and terrific players like Lisa Schultz, Monica Johnson, Lana Harshaw, Teresa Polini (Cunniff) and the three McCracken sisters – Mackenzie, Maddie and now Macie.

The Warriors boys team has also had its share of talented players such as Tylee Thomas and Jon Greene, and has annually been a South Jersey Group I contender behind coach Scott McCracken, but sometimes lacked depth.

Current athletic directors Steve Lerch (Wildwood) and Mike Rennie (Wildwood Catholic) deserve kudos for ironing out the wrinkles that developed in recent years and rekindling one of the area’s special rivalries.

“I know there are a lot of people who talk about competitive balance when it comes to schedules,” DiPatri told CapeAtlanticLive. “But I say, let the local teams play each other. This is what high school sports should be about. Look at what just went on in that gym. It was great.”

I agree wholeheartedly.

When it comes to scheduling, coaches and officials sometimes place too much emphasis on finding out-of-conference and out-of-area opponents in an effort to collect as many power points as possible for the state playoffs.

It's understandable, but strengthening one’s schedule too often comes at the expense of some of the area’s biggest and best rivalries.

Lower Cape May Regional and Middle Township are prime examples. Because they were ridiculously put in separate divisions of the West Jersey Football League, the teams had to find creative ways to keep the Anchor Bowl alive and were unable to do so last fall.

As a result, the Caper Tigers and Panthers did not play for just the second time in at least 50 years.

Similarly, Lower Cape May’s and Middle’s boys basketball squads are not playing this season.  Fortunately, the situation appears to be improving. Besides Wildwood and Wildwood Catholic renewing their rivalry, the Anchor Bowl will be back in September.

The WJFL realigned its teams for the 2024 season. Lower and Middle are both in the Liberty Division and will meet at LCM on the weekend of September 11-12.

It’s not Thanksgiving, but it’s better than nothing.

Hopefully, it leads to more rivalries getting renewed, especially in basketball.

Anyone over 50 who grew up in Cape May County got to experience a magical time in high school sports.

Winter nights in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s were spent in steamy, packed gymnasiums watching unbelievable games featuring Charlie Wise (Lower), Floyd Shelton (Wildwood), Craig Roberson (Middle) and Bill Fisher (Ocean City).

My dad, who was a baseball and football coach at Lower in the 1960’s and early 70’s, took his three sons to almost every Lower Cape May boys basketball game in 1971-72, when Wise, Randy Scott, Duke Anderson, Terry Welsh and Mike Johns were taking on Middle, Wildwood, Wildwood Catholic, Ocean City and the rest of the CAL.

Those games were must-see events. If you wanted a seat for a 7 p.m. game, you had to get there by 4 or you were usually out of luck.

A few years later, dad got to watch his boys play football and baseball against LCM’s Cape May County rivals.  Those games are always among the topics of conversation whenever the LCM Class of ’76 gets together.

Final scores, accolades and accomplishments fade with time, but the bonds formed and the memories created during those games last forever.

Congrats to Wildwood Catholic and Wildwood for creating those moments for their basketball teams last Saturday.

10 Favorite Things about Cape May County, NJ

The history of Cape May County predates the formation of the United States of America by about 100 years as it was one of the first counties established in what was originally known as the West New Jersey Provence. Cape May County's historical records go back as far as 1685 and the County was originally established in 1692. Cape May County has been a huge part of my life and that of my family's for decades, so I wanted to share with you my favorite aspects of the southern most County in the state of New Jersey.

Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig/Townsquare Media

More From 97.3 ESPN