South Jersey Times girls basketball notebook: Timber Creek’s Burch has earned her rewards through hard work
There’s one spot that catches Amaya Burch’s eyes each time she enters the Ralph E. Ross Gymnasium at Timber Creek High School. It’s where the banner that lists the members of the Chargers’ 1,000-point club hangs.
Jazmine Carter was the last girl, and seventh overall, to get her name on the banner, in 2018.
Pretty soon, Burch will be the eighth. The senior guard enters the week just 141 points shy of the milestone.
“I literally look at that banner every time I walk into this gym,” Burch said last Thursday, shortly after the Chargers finished off a big 56-42 win over Tri-County Conference Royal Division rival Clearview. “I’m so excited. I try not to think about it because if I do, it flusters me. That’s been my dream since before high school – to get 1,000 points.”
When she does, head coach MollyAnne Light will be leading the cheers.
“She works harder than any athlete I’ve ever coached, and she’s earned it,” Light said. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure she gets that milestone. Even coming off a shortened Covid season last year, she put up more points in 14 games than she did her entire sophomore year.”
This season, Burch is the leading scorer in Tri-Co, averaging 25.1 points per game, including a career-high 38 in a win over Williamstown early in the season. A solid ball-handler who can score from anywhere on the court, she leads the Chargers in rebounds (8.6 per game) and steals (4.6 per game) as well.
Timber Creek (10-2) is on a roll with five straight wins and shares the Tri-Co Royal lead with Clearview, with two division games remaining for each team. As the calendar flips to February this week, the Chargers are hoping for a strong finish.
Last season, they turned it on late, winning their last four games, including three in the special Tri-County Conference tournament. It was capped by an upset win over Gloucester Catholic to capture the Bracket A championship.
With Burch leading them, the Chargers are hoping to be a factor in South Jersey Group 3 when the NJSIAA Tournament begins in a few weeks.
But first, their team captain is eyeing history.
“It just feels like all the hard work has paid off,” Burch said.
Every morning, except game days, Burch’s day begins with a 4:30 a.m. wakeup, followed by a journey with her dad to Esporta Fitness in Washington Township for a 90-minute practice session.
“He’s my No. 1 fan, and hat’s off to him because he does so much for me,” Burch said of her father, Andre. “He’s with me every morning, waking up with me, getting my rebounds. I have to get up over 500 shots a morning. I have school, so we’re at the gym right when it opens at 5, we stay until 6:30, I come home to shower and then it’s off to school. That’s my day.”
Burch amped up her commitment to the game after watching her older brother, Tazir Cantey, flourish on the basketball court.
Cantey graduated from Eastern last year, completing his high school career with 1,939 points. He spent three years at Lindenwold before transferring to Eastern for his final season.
“That was an inspiration, Burch said. “I said, ‘I want to play like him.’ My dad said, ‘Well, you have to put in the work,’ so I started going to the gym with him.”
The Chargers are going to need everything Burch can give them in the second half of the season. They recently lost starting center Taja Brown, a senior, to a season-ending injury.
The team starts a pair of freshmen – Nal’La Bennett and Nicholle Green – along with juniors Julianna Coluccio and Jessenia Edwards. Seniors Jacenia Johnson and Jazmine Johnson also play key roles.
Burch and her teammates all sport the word “Family” above the numbers on the backs of their uniforms – reflecting a unity that serves the team well.
“It runs a lot deeper than what’s on our jersey,” Burch said. “We’re always family no matter what. Win or lose, we’re family. On or off the court, we’re family. It’s a sisterhood and it’s a great thing to be a part of. I’m having a whole bunch of fun – not a game goes by where I’m not having fun with this team.”
HAVE YOU HERD?
Woodbury registered a pair of significant victories last week, ending long losing streaks against a pair of Colonial Conference foes.
Woodbury athletic director Dan Howey had to go back quite a few years to dig up this information.
When the Thundering Herd beat Haddonfield, 64-32, last Tuesday, it represented their first win over the Bulldogs since Jan. 25, 1991, when Keith Wert was the head coach.
They followed that with a 53-44 win at Sterling on Thursday – their first win over the Silver Knights in more than 40 years. Woodbury beat Sterling at home, 44-42, on Jan. 25, 1980 under head coach Willie Murray.
With those two wins, the Herd improved to 12-2 and have cemented their status as a leading South Jersey and state Group 1 contender.
The Haddonfield game represented the first game this season that newcomers Alexis Davis and Nile Miller played together. Davis, a junior who spent her first two years at Glassboro, was returning from an ankle injury after missing four games, and Miller, a senior, was playing in just her third game after sitting out the required 30 days following her transfer from Paul VI.
But keep an eye on senior JaNazha Clinton, who just might benefit from all the attention paid to Davis and Miller. Clinton had 15 points and 15 rebounds in the win over Haddonfield, and gives the Herd a great third scoring option.
Clinton led Woodbury in scoring a year ago, averaging 11.8 points per game. She’s at 10.4 per game this season, adjusting to a different role with the new additions. She scored nearly 300 points at Deptford, where she spent her freshman and sophomore years, and now has more than 600 for her career.
“Nile and I are in-and-out players who don’t really have a position,” said Davis, who’s averaging 28.1 points per game. “JaNazha is great at cleaning up, getting offensive rebounds and putbacks.”
Woodbury coach Rahmod Noel said that Clinton’s unselfishness is one of her greatest assets.
“She plays relaxed,” he said. “She really doesn’t want to be a top scorer. She wants to be a perfect teammate. She wants to pass the ball and wants to get a triple double because she wants to be helping her team out. That’s the type of person she is.”
A LOOK AHEAD
Pennsville senior Ryane Wood enters Monday’s game at Gloucester needing just 22 points to reach 1,000 for her career.
Saturday’s snowstorm postponed a much-anticipated non-league matchup between Timber Creek and Woodbury, but the game will be made up on Friday when the Thundering Herd travels to Erial to face the Chargers at 5:30 p.m.
The game will match Woodbury junior Alexis Davis and Timber Creek senior Amaya Burch – the second and third-leading scorers in South Jersey behind Paul VI’s Hannah Hidalgo.
Clearview’s South Jersey Invitational game against unbeaten Wildwood was postponed on Saturday, but the Pioneers have two major challenges on tap for this week as they’ll play host to Mainland, the No 15 team in the NJ.com Top 20, on Tuesday at 5:30. They’ll follow that with a road trip to the shore to face Wildwood Catholic (12-4) on Saturday at 3:30.
It’s a big week for Gloucester Catholic, beginning with Monday’s home game against Tri-Co Liberty Division leader Woodstown. The Rams follow that with a trip to Wildwood on Thursday for a chance to pull into a tie with the Classic Division-leading Warriors.
Unbeaten Wildwood (11-0) beat Gloucester Catholic, 50-49, on Jan. 6 and will look to move a step closer to clinching the division title outright. Wildwood is 6-0 in the Classic, followed by Catholic and Pennsville at 5-1.
The Rams finish their week at home against Pennsville on Friday.
Our Lady of Mercy plays host to Middle Township on Tuesday. The Villagers will try to avenge a 57-46 loss to their Cape-Atlantic League United Division foe on Jan. 22.
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