The unmistakable feeling was that with just one more minute - perhaps even less than that - Timber Creek would be playing for a state championship on Sunday.

The Chargers had Middletown South on the ropes Thursday night when the clock cut short a furious comeback attempt, ending Timber Creek's season with a 51-48 loss in the state Group 3 semifinals at Deptford.

After the game, Brittany Martin, as she has been for the last four years, was the face of her team's effort.

She bent over, hands on her knees - partly out of frustration, but mostly because she had just left every ounce of energy she had on the court.

"The girls never gave up, you could see that in this game, but it's been all season," Chargers coach Donna Clark said.

Timber Creek finished the year with a 22-8 record and earned the program's first South Jersey championship.

Martin scored a game-high 24 points Thursday night. She ended her career as Timber Creek's all-time leading scorer with 1,851 points. She surpassed the previous record of 1,788, which her sister Jasmine set in 2011, in a South Jersey semifinal win over Central Regional.

"I'm extremely proud of these girls, this is the farthest we've ever come," Martin said. "And even though we weren't able to win, I'm so proud of them for fighting back and getting as close as we did."

Timber Creek trailed by 16 with 3 minutes, 29 seconds left in the third quarter. The Chargers were bogged down by unforced turnovers and hot shooting by Middletown South (25-5).

But Timber Creek, playing with obvious emotion and energy, tightened its defense. The Chargers held the Central Jersey champion without a field goal over the final 10:07.

Middletown South went more than six minutes between the third and fourth quarters without scoring a point and scored just five points - all on free throws - in the final period.

Timber Creek scored the final four points of the third quarter to enter the fourth down by 46-36.

Timber Creek continued playing the aggressor, causing turnovers and chipping away on offense. Martin sank two free throws to cut the lead to 51-48 with one second left - not quite enough time to complete the comeback.

"I looked up [at the scoreboard] and just thought, 'Just one more minute.' That's all I wanted," Clark said. "But it was just an awesome season. The girls are great. I love them. They worked so hard and I couldn't ask for a better group of girls."

Timber Creek 18 7 11 12 - 48

Middleton South 23 9 14 5 - 51

TC: Brittany Martin 24, Joie Brittingham 4, Celina Foxworth 6, Summer Pierce 9, Fatimah Williams 5.

MS: Angela Bartolome 12, Julia Valkas 8, Haley Dalonzo 15, Stephanie Karcz 7, Alexandra Balsamo 9.