The guard doesn’t change in one game.
Nor in one season.
It takes time for one program to usurp another program’s position at the top of the pyramid. It takes years.
But for right now, it’s clear that Wildwood Catholic has replaced St. Augustine Prep as the dominant basketball team in the Cape-Atlantic League.
Behind sensational juniors Taj Thweatt and Jahlil White, Wildwood Catholic cruised past St. Augustine, 67-44, on Tuesday night in a clash of Top 5 teams in the Inquirer’s Top 25 rankings.
The 6-foot-7 Thweatt scored 23 while the 6-foot-6 White generated 15 points with three blocks and two steals for No. 3 Wildwood Catholic (9-1).
The Crusaders were coming off a statement victory over North Jersey non-public power Patrick School on Sunday the Seagull Classic but showed no sign of a letdown before a near-capacity crowd in the Hermits’ gymnasium.
“This was a true test for us,” Wildwood Catholic coach David DeWeese said. “Coming off Sunday, a win of that magnitude, to come in here, a place where we haven’t had a lot of success, could we have the same energy and effort? Could we get the same result?
“Our guys really responded to that.”
The victory was Wildwood Catholic’s first at St. Augustine since 1993.
“That was in the old gym,” DeWeese noted.
Wildwood Catholic won the Cape-Atlantic League tournament last season and finished ranked ahead of St. Augustine. This season, the Crusaders have stretched the gap between the two non-public powers, a point DeWeese made to his players before the game.
“I told them, ‘You have taken their spot,’” DeWeese said. “I said, ‘You have become the dominant program in South Jersey and they don’t like it one bit and they are going to try to take you down.’”
Senior forward Charles Solomon scored 17 points for No. 4 St. Augustine (6-2), which has lost two in a row.
“We’re searching for our identity right now,” St. Augustine coach Paul Rodio said.
Wildwood Catholic raced to a 22-11 lead after one quarter, as Thweatt broke the game open with 12 points, mixing a three-pointer with some dominant work in the paint.
“We wanted that energy to carry over from the last game,” Thweatt said. “We knew we had to come out and play hard.”
St. Augustine never fully recovered, although the Hermits cut the gap to 38-30 before some struggles at the foul line limited their ability to continue the comeback.
“We’re in a mode as a team right now where each night we’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do poorly,” Rodio said. “Tonight it was foul shooting.”
White took command in the second quarter, scoring 11 with two blocks and a steal.
White and Thweatt each have scholarship offers from Temple and Monmouth, among other programs. They are stars on a team with just one senior in lead guard Jake McMonigle, so the Crusaders could be settling in for a long run at the top of the league.
“This team is nowhere near where it can be,” DeWeese said. “But we’re making progress.”
Wildwood Catholic 22 14 12 19 – 67
St. Augustine 11 13 13 7 – 44
WC: Taj Thweatt 23, Jahlil White 15, Jacob Hopping 11, Ben Church 5, David Zarfati 7, Jake McMonigle 6.