Rich Bolds had a pretty good sense of things back in the summer.
Certainly he knew his team was talented. Timber Creek was coming off a 16-win season in which it advanced to the Group 3 semifinals.
But watching them take on some of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s best -- including Archbishop Wood, Bishop McDevitt and Constitution -- Bolds said he felt like there was even more to come.
“Everybody was bought into being around and making sure they were available for workouts,” Bolds said of his summer realization. “[When we] played a lot of the schools from Philly, we either beat them or sent it into overtime. So I knew we had a good team.”
What Timber Creek’s longtime coach didn’t know, though, was that his squad would get off to an 18-3 start — by far the best in school history — which has them fourth in the Inquirer’s latest South Jersey Top 10 rankings. The Chargers made hay in the early part of their schedule, winning 16 of their first 17 games, but just finished a week where in which lost to both Eastern and Malvern Prep (Pa.).
And while that kind of downturn could worry some coaches, Bolds saw the type of response every coach hopes for. The Chargers rebounded with ensuing victories over Cherry Hill West and Winslow Township.
“The seniors were like, ‘We started off slow. We started off non-aggressive, and we can’t have that type of mentality coming out because everyone is after us,’ ” Bolds said. “To have continued success, [I told them] you guys have to understand there’s a bulls-eye on your backs.”
It’s not just seniors at the top. That group has led the way, with Eric Benjamin averaging better than 14 points per game and Demetrius Paynter not far behind at 12.2 points to go along with more than seven boards per game.
But Timber Creek’s roster features 10 seniors, including Justin Bladen and Jalen Bergen as well as Tarheeb Still, a Maryland football signee.
And with the other four of the Chargers’ top seniors still uncommitted, the opportunity to play for both their team and their basketball futures has given Timber Creek an extra jolt.
“We just want to win one game at a time,” Bolds said. “We want to stay in the moment and what happens, happens. … But I’m always letting them know, the more you win the more coaches want to be involved with you.”
That same type of winning isn’t going to be easy down the stretch.
Timber Creek has four regular-season games remaining, including a visit from No. 1 Camden on Feb. 24, a team Bolds calls “everyone’s measuring stick,” as well as a trip to No. 6 Paul VI.