DJ Woodbury’s one-handed slam late in the third quarter — right in the face of a defender — was so ferocious the game actually stopped for a few moments to give the crowd and both teams time to regain composure.
This was Woodbury’s answer to Burlington Township’s biggest run of the game.
And it summed up the win for Burlington City: Every time the Burlington Township boys’ basketball team clawed its way to within arm’s reach, Woodbury and his Burlington City teammates slammed the door in their face.
In a memorable addition to one of the area’s oldest rivalries, Burlington City topped neighboring Burlington Township, 70-67, in an emotional, physical battle in front of a sizable crowd in Burlington Township.
The win extended the Blue Devils’ undefeated start to 11 games.
“Some of our older relatives played in these games — this win means a lot to our community and our city,” said Woodbury, a 6-foot-2 guard who has now beaten Burlington Township all four years of his high school career.
Woodbury, a Temple recruit in football, led all scorers with 20 points. He also chipped in three assists, three steals and five rebounds.
Sophomore guard Jamaal Morris scored 17 points, and his twin brother, Jameel, added 15 for the Blue Devils.
The twins — in a sign of how close these teams are — did a jersey swap with the Falcons’ Daniel Thomas after the game, someone they’ve played basketball with for most of their lives.
“This was special,” Jamaal said. “We didn’t play great as a group. But we’re trying to make progress every day.”
The game ultimately came down to physicality over finesse. The Blue Devils used aggressive full-court pressure to build a 12-point lead in the first quarter. They never trailed at any point after that. The game was never even tied at any point beyond the first quarter.
But that doesn’t mean Burlington Township didn’t make it interesting. The Falcons outscored Burlington City in each of the final three quarters.
And despite battling injuries, Burlington Township looked far stronger than its 3-9 record.
“We were close and we kept fighting — we felt like we made some mistakes and beat ourselves — but we just have to keep working,” said Emmanuel Ayetigbo, who led Burlington Township with 18 points.
An 8-0 run by the Falcons — halted by Woodbury’s emphatic slam — made the score 47-42 with three minutes left in the third quarter.
Burlington City extended the lead to 10 before the end of the quarter, but the Falcons still wouldn’t go away. They scored seven straight to get to 64-60 with 2:18 left.
During the fourth quarter, the Falcons were forcing turnovers and dominating the glass. Burlington City’s offense struggled, particularly at the foul line where they shot just 11 of 25.
But with one minute left, Woodbury made a pair of free throws to extend Burlington City’s lead to six points, which gave the Blue Devils just enough room to ride out the victory.
Despite some obvious ups and downs, Burlington City coach Paul Collins was generally pleased with his team’s performance. This game presented a rare high-pressure situation for his team. It was just the third time the Blue Devils played a game decided by less than 10 points.
“This game has been going on for 35-45 years — this is a traditional game,” Collins said. “And it was a good experience for us. … You just would have liked to take control of the game in the middle of the third quarter so you don’t have to [have this type of ending].”
Burlington City 22 17 13 18 — 70
Burlington Township 10 19 17 21 — 67
BC: DJ Woodbury 20, Jamaal Morris 17, Jameel Morris 15, Jacquez Hunt 5, Naseem Chew 9, Kyir Pendelton 2, Steven Shaffer 2.