Sunday, May 22, 2022

Chargers win Tri-County Conference Tournament

Timber Creek overcomes year of many firsts to win title

MATTHEW SHINKLE/The Sun: The Timber Creek girl’s basketball team celebrates after their win in the Tri-County Conference Tournament Bracket A championship game over Gloucester Catholic by a score of 46-38 on Friday, March 5.

To say the Timber Creek girl’s basketball team went into the 2020-2021 season with a degree of uncertainty would be underselling the adversity its members overcame this past season.

For starters, like all others across the state, the team was unsure for a significant period of time when, and if, a potential season would start. Even though one was held, Timber Creek started two weeks late due to a positive COVID case that forced the team and school into a remote learning schedule at the start of its season.

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The team was entering its first year with head coach MollyAnne Light and the Chargers were beginning their first year in the Tri-County Conference, switching over from the Olympic Conference after four straight years of sub .500 records.

In all, this year was going to be a challenging one to say the least; that made winning the top bracket of the Tri-County Conference tournament this season even more memorable.

According to junior Amaya Burch, before the team was allowed to practice indoors, the girls got together to practice outside in the winter to work on their chemistry and run through potential plays.

“Before the season even started and we were allowed to actually go inside, we had been practicing outside in the cold, with our masks on, in that 20-degree weather,” said Burch. “We wanted to do those things that other teams probably weren’t doing, and that included getting in shape and working on plays together outside, even if it was 20 degrees out there.”

“Our whole motto at the beginning of the season was to do things that others aren’t,” Light said. “Although I couldn’t have physical contact with them during the winter, our captains ran practices two to three times a week outside, while we held virtual practices along with that.”

Following the team’s late start to the season, which forced an already short schedule to be played in even less time, the team embarked on a journey that saw them playing four games each week and ultimately led to the Chargers having more virtual practices, where they would focus primarily on watching tape of upcoming opponents and developing new plays.

“By the end of the season, we only had 12 actual in person practices,” Light said. “So it’s kind of amazing to do what we did in 12 practices, and it really tells me about the type of talent we have on this team. It’s a shame that there aren’t sectionals and we couldn’t go farther, because we improved with each game and, by the end of the season, we were just really getting into our stride I feel like.”

After a stellar 6-0 start to the year, Timber Creek ended up finishing the regular season 8-3, including back-to-back losses to Kingsway near the end of the season, one by only three points.

Heading to the Tri-County Conference Tournament, the Chargers were labeled the sixth seed, setting them up for an all-road schedule if they wanted to capture the title, which is exactly what they did.

“My message to them going into it was to have confidence and believe that you can do it,” said Light. “We saw Kingsway three times in the span of nine days and played 10 games in the span of 14 days … It was just that they needed to believe in themselves and believe that all their hard work would pay off in the end.”

Ultimately, the Chargers ended up beating the top three seeds in their bracket to earn the Tri-County Conference Bracket A title.

“From the beginning of the season, we wanted to prove everyone wrong,” said senior Amiaya Morgan. “We know Clearview had won it last season, and at the start of the season, everyone was talking about Kingsway or Clearview or another one of those top teams to win it again. So we told ourselves we can’t let them keep counting us out. We took it game by game, started off pretty hot and kept that rolling.”

In what was certainly a challenging season, both physically and mentally, Burch said the team was fueled by the idea that they were truly playing for one another every day.

“Once we came back from that two-week quarantine period, those girls were who we were with each and every day,” said Burch. “We created a bond between all of us and I really feel like we strengthened it each and every day. We formed a bond on and off the court.

“You can’t play with a team that you don’t trust or don’t believe in,” she added, “and we all believed in each other out there.”

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