Staff Report
The Cape-Atlantic League will crown boys and girls basketball champions on Saturday at Stockton University, and the first step to hoisting the glass trophy begins tonight with opening-round games. Here’s a quick look at the first-round games as well as the schedule for the semifinals and finals.
Defending Champion
Wildwood Catholic
The Matchups (Feb. 24)
Opening round: (8) Ocean City at (1) Wildwood Catholic;
(5) St. Joseph at (4) Atlantic City; (6) Holy Spirit at
(3) Mainland Regional; (7) Pleasantville at (2) St. Augustine Prep
Semifinals (Feb. 26 at Absegami)
5 p.m.: Holy Spirit/Mainland winner vs.
St. Augustine Prep/Pleasantville winner
7 p.m. Wildwood Catholic/Ocean City winner vs.
Atlantic City/St. Joseph winner
*Finals are Saturday, Feb. 29, at Stockton University at 2 p.m.

Jake Cook and Mainland will be facing Holy Spirit for the third time this season when the Mustangs and Spartans tangle in the opening round of the CAL Tournament. (Glory Days photo/Dave O’Sullivan)

The skinny
Wildwood Catholic is the clear-cut favorite in this field despite the Crusaders coming in with seven losses. They’ve played one of the toughest schedules in the state, and nobody can match up one-on-one with either Taj Thweatt or Jahlil White. There should be some very entertaining first-round matchups though!
Upset alert
Two teams should be on high alert during Monday’s opening round, Mainland and St. Augustine Prep. Pleasantville is coming off a big win over St. Joseph and is playing with a lot of confidence, and Holy Spirit will be a very tough matchup for Mainland.
Players to Watch
Issa Baker-Toombs, G, Pleasantville: Baker can score in bunches, as he proved against St. Joseph with 33 points, including 22 in the first half, and can also rack up the threes. Elmarko Jackson, G, St. Augustine Prep: Just a sophomore, he’s really starting to come into his own. Stephen Byard, F, Atlantic City: He’s going to have to have some big games if the Vikings hope to make it to the finals. Luke Mazur, G, Mainland: A senior who has been building toward a moment like this, he’ll need to carry a significant scoring load for the Mustangs. Jacob Hopping, G, Wildwood Catholic: One of the best 3-point shooters in South Jersey, if he gets hot from the outside, it’s game-over. Christian Kalinowski, G, Holy Spirit: He spent some time on the injured list this year, but this kid has been so consistent throughout his career and could be a game-changer.
Defending Champion
Ocean City
The Matchups (Feb. 24)
Opening round: (8) Absegami at (1) Wildwood Catholic;
(5) Middle Township at (4) Mainland Regional; (6) ACIT at
(3) Atlantic City; (7) OLMA at (2) Ocean City
Semifinals (Feb. 25 at Ocean City)
5 p.m.: Absegami/Wildwood Catholic winner vs.
Middle Township/Mainland Regional winner
7 p.m. ACIT/Atlantic City winner vs. OLMA/Ocean City winner
*Finals are Saturday, Feb. 29, at Stockton University at noon.

Grace Speer and ACIT will be looking for their first CAL Tournament victory when the RedHawks visit Atlantic City tonight. (Glory Days photo/Dave O’Sullivan)

The skinny
The girls tournament should be REALLY interesting, as there is no real predominant favorite. Wildwood Catholic, Mainland, Ocean City and Middle Township have all been playing great basketball and any of those teams could win it, and don’t sleep on a team like Atlantic City, one of the most athletic in the field. It’s going to be tough sledding for teams like Absegami, ACIT and OLMA to score an upset in the first round.
Upset alert
Ocean City can’t get too confident in the first round, as OLMA has had a nice season, but the Red Raiders clearly have played a much tougher schedule. And Middle Township probably should have been seeded higher than No. 5, so Mainland better play well if it hopes to get past the first round.
Players to Watch
Cadence Fitzgerald, F, Mainland: She wasn’t even getting much time early in the season, but has emerged as a threat the past three weeks. Kira Sides, G, Middle Township: Consistency, experience, a great shooting touch, this three-sport athlete brings a lot to the table. Emma Finnegan and Lauren Mirsky, F, Ocean City: This duo will have to do a ton of dirty work in the low post and on the glass if the Raiders hope to defend their title. Ciani Redd-Howard, F, Atlantic City: Seniors need to step up in these situations, and the Vikings will be counting on their leader. Haleigh Schafer, G/F, Absegami: The Braves will need a bunch of scoring out of their star to score a first-round upset.