Tempo is the tell.
Timber Creek isn’t just winning basketball games. The Chargers are operating at their preferred pace.
Timber Creek (11-1) has risen to No. 5 in the Inquirer’s South Jersey Top 10. The Chargers have won three in a row.
And here’s the key: The Chargers are forcing teams to play their game, at their speed, in their comfort zone.
Last week, Timber Creek beat Camden Catholic 67-44 and Cherry Hill East 75-63. Those would have been impressive wins at any score.
But to generate 142 points in two games against those teams – both of which are known for their sturdy defense and patient offense --- was a clear sign the Chargers are controlling play.
Senior guard Justin Bladen scored 21 in the win over Camden Catholic. Senior guard Eric Benjamin scored 25 and senior forward Demetrius Paynter collected 16 points with 12 rebounds in the win over Cherry Hill East.
Meanwhile, Westampton Tech (10-2 jumps in the rankings at the No. 8 spot, thanks in large part to a victory Saturday over then-No. 3 Paul VI.
Here’s the new Top 10, with last week’s ranking in parentheses:
1. Camden (1) 11-1: The Panthers made clear they are more than just a South Jersey or state power with a 61-59 victory over Rancho Christian (Cal.) Saturday at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass. That was a national stage and a national opponent, with Rancho Christian senior Evan Mobley widely regarded as the No. 1 player in the country in the class of 2020. But Camden senior Lance Ware was the best player on the court and Panthers’ freshman D.J. Wagner wasn’t far behind. Camden has a chance to make another statement Thursday at Neumann University, where the Panthers will meet North Jersey non-public power Roselle Catholic.
2. Wildwood Catholic (2) 11-2: Junior guard Martin Anguelov scored 16 in the first half, making four three-pointers, as the Crusaders rolled past fellow non-public state power Marist 63-39 on Saturday. On Wednesday night, the Crusaders hit the century mark, beating St. Joseph by 101-82. Temple recruit Jahlil White scored 37 and West Virginia recruit Taj Thweatt scored 36. Wildwood Catholic has a home test Wednesday vs. No. 3 St. Augustine.
3. St. Augustine (4) 9-2: Sophomore guard Elmarko Jackson is emerging as a top player for the Hermits, a versatile complement to junior forward Matt Delaney. Jackson collected 16 points with five assists in a win over Pleasantville and added 22 points in a win over Millville. The Hermits, who have won five in a row, play at Wildwood Catholic Wednesday and meet surging Bordentown on Saturday.
4. Paul VI (3) 7-3: Junior guard Wisler Sanon with 19 in a 69-52 loss to Camden on Thursday. Nobody brags about a 17-point loss but the Eagles were far more competitive with the Panthers than any other South Jersey team has been so far this season. Paul VI plays at dangerous Cherry Hill West Friday and meet Central Jersey non-public power Trenton Catholic on Saturday.
5. Timber Creek (8) 11-1: The Chargers’ preference for pushing the pace will face a challenge Tuesday as they visit Olympic Patriot rival Shawnee, a program renowned for its ability to control tempo.
6. Burlington City (7) 11-0: Despite shooting just 11-for-25 from the foul line, the Blue Devils beat rival Burlington Township 70-67 on Saturday. Senior guard D.J. Woodbury, a Temple recruit for football, led the way with 20 points while sophomore twins Jamaal and Jameel Morris added 17 and 15, respectively. Burlington City plays at Delran Tuesday and meets South Brunswick on Saturday.
7. Lenape (6) 7-3: Sophomore Derek Simpson led the Indians through a 2-1 week that included wins over school-district rival Cherokee and Medford Tech as well as a loss to Bishop Eustace. Simpson collected 18 points with eight assists in the win over Cherokee. He scored 16 in the win over Medford Tech and 16 in the loss to Bishop Eustace. Lenape plays at division rival Eastern Tuesday and meets Haddon Heights on Saturday.
8. Westampton Tech (NR): 10-2: Senior swingman Tyrese Myrick earned MVP honors as the Panthers stunned Paul VI 55-52 at the Greyhound Classic Saturday at Pleasantville. Myrick and Avery Anderson each scored 18 and Dwayne Francis added 11 for Westampton Tech, which has lost only to state powers Camden and Trenton Catholic.
9. Moorestown (9) 8-1: The Quakers’ defense has been solid as they’ve held seven of nine opponents under 50 points. The two foes who broke the half-century mark both did so in losing efforts. In a victory over Burlington Township, senior swingman Hayden Greer made four three-pointers and finished with 18. Senior guard Evan Francisco also made four three-pointers on his way to 16 in a win over Medford Tech.
10. Haddonfield (10) 10-1: The Bulldogs have won nine in a row. Senior guard Andrew Gostovich scored 26 in a victory over Millville. Senior swingman Ben Cerrato went for 17 points with five steals in a win over Woodbury, then collected 17 points with 12 rebounds in a victory over Sterling. Sophomore Tommy Mooney scored 14 vs. Sterling. Haddonfield plays at rival Haddon Township on Tuesday.