One sure sign of a top player is his ability to help his team in different ways.
For Wildwood Catholic senior Caleb Fields, that means equal effort at both ends of the floor and positive body language in every situation.
"Guys are going to act how I act," Fields said after leading Wildwood Catholic to a 40-37 victory over Haddonfield on Saturday in the Shoot Down Cancer Classic at St. Augustine Prep.
The highly anticipated showdown between unbeaten teams ranked in the Top 7 in South Jersey turned out to be a taut, tense and frustrating affair for Wildwood Catholic and their dynamic combination guard.
The undermanned Bulldawgs, who were missing three starters and a couple of key reserves because of injuries, controlled the tempo, forcing the high-paced Crusaders into their lowest-scoring game of the season.
Fields' shot was off, too. The 6-foot-2 athlete, who has signed with Bowling Green, was just 5 for 17 from the field, including a 2-for-9 showing from three-point range.
But Fields found other way to contribute. He made the game's biggest play with a steal and layup for a 38-35 lead with 56 seconds on the clock.
"He goes 100 percent for 32 minutes," Wildwood Catholic coach Dave DeWeese said of Fields. "He's the engine that makes us go."
Fields finished with 12 points, and sophomore forward Taj Thweatt added 10 points with seven rebounds for Wildwood Catholic (11-0), the No. 4 team in the Inquirer Top 25.
Junior forward Aiden Blake scored 12 and senior guard Ben Schroeter added 11 for No. 7 Haddonfield (11-1).
The Bulldawgs played without three starters in junior guard Mike DePersia (injured knee), senior guard Will Bond (wrist) and junior center Dan Fleming (ankle).
Haddonfield also was missing key reserves in junior guard Lewis Evans (ankle) and sophomore forward Ben Cerrato (concussion). All are expected back at some point except Bond, who likely will not play again this season.
"What a great job these kids did," Haddonfield coach Paul Wiedeman said. "We were just trying to hang in there, hang in there, and then all of a sudden in the fourth quarter we had the lead."
Both teams played strong defense. Haddonfield missed its first 14 shots of the game but stayed in contention with foul shooting, patient offense and a sticky, matchup zone defense.
"This was one of those nights when we survived," DeWeese said. "We found a way to win when we weren't at our best. But credit to them for forcing us not to be at our best."
The athletic Fields excels in the open floor. He's normally a prolific scorer, averaging close to 20 points for a team that usually puts between 70 and 80 on the board.
"It was frustrating," Fields said the game's pace. "Coach said we were playing offense for one second and defense for one minute."
Haddonfield, which got strong all-around play from junior forward Dylan Heine, took its final lead at 35-33 on Schroeter's three-pointer with 3:38 to play.
Wildwood Catholic answered with a big three-pointer by sophomore Jacob Hopping.
Wildwood Catholic's lead still was 36-35 when the clock winked under a minute and Fields made the steal and layup that allowed the Crusaders to keep their perfect record intact and reap a host of power points for playoff positioning.
"Sometimes, your shot is not going to fall," Fields said. "You have to find other ways to help your team win."
Wildwood Catholic 11 10 8 11 – 40
Haddonfield 6 8 9 14 – 37
WWC: Jahlil White 2, Caleb Fields 12, Matt Capozzoli 6, Charles Fields 4, Taj Thweatt 10, Jacob Hopping 3, Blane Rossell 3.