By Phil Anastasia
It was a break-out game for Maurice Murray.
The smooth sophomore scored a career-high 24 points to power Timber Creek to a 78-71 victory over Winslow Township in a clash of fierce rivals and Top 10 teams in the championship game of the James Atkinson Memorial Classic Tuesday night.
Senior guard Caleb Bowser scored 19 with eight rebounds and senior guard Randy Bell scored 17 with five assists for Timber Creek (3-1), which won the event at Rowan College at Gloucester County for the second year in a row.
Senior guard Mike Cubbage scored 22 and senior forward Manny Lowe added 11 with nine rebounds for Winslow Township (2-3).
The game was the first of three or four matchups between Timber Creek, which was No. 7 in The Inquirer preseason Top 25, and Winslow Township, which was No. 5.
The teams will play twice in Olympic Conference division competition and also could meet in the South Jersey Group 3 tournament.
"It's always a battle," Timber Creek coach Rich Bolds said. "My guys are excited and getting the trophy and I'm thinking, 'Dang, we have to play these guys three more times?'"
The 6-foot-5 Murray scored 19 after halftime in a fast-paced, physical game before a near-capacity crowd.
He made four three-pointers in the third quarter as Timber Creek built a lead as large as 58-46.
"My shots weren't falling at first but my teammates kept encouraging me," Murray said. "Once that first one fell, it was a big confidence booster."
The intense game and the large crowd on a warm, damp night made for some slippery footing in the fourth quarter, as several players lost their balance because of moisture on the hardwood.
Murray scored seven points in the game's final one minute, 22 seconds as Timber Creek held off Winslow Township's last charge.
Murray's layup gave Timber Creek a 71-66 lead. His three-point play made it 76-68 at the 0:52 mark and he added two free throws to finish the scoring for the Chargers.
"He showed what he can do," Bolds said of Murray. "He's been a little frustrated but I've been telling him, 'It's coming, just relax.'
"He showed he's one of the best sophomores in South Jersey."
Timber Creek 13 18 27 20 -- 78
Winslow Twp. 17 12 21 21 -- 71
TC: Caleb Bowser 19, Randy Bell 17, Denzel Washington 6, Isaiah Sanders 2, Maurice Murray 24, Herschel Williams 8, Donald Thomas 2.
WT: Mike Cubbage 22, Khan Clark 2, Devon Robinson 6, Manny Lowe 11, Tyrae Taylor 5, Nasir Fields 7, Jared Bennett 2, Sidney Brown 10, Elijah Campbell 6.
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org