Rich, Willingboro set sights even higher

Jasmine Rich is not greedy, but she does want it all.

The Willingboro senior guard's wish list this season includes a Burlington County League Liberty Division title, sectional and state crowns, and a chance to cut down the nets following a victory in the Tournament of Champions final.

All this a season after Rich helped the Chimeras make a surprising late-season charge to the NJSIAA Group 3 state championship and a berth in the Tournament of Champions quarterfinals.

While giving props to all-South Jersey forward Tiffany Crews, who finished with more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds before heading off to play at Northeastern, Rich believes that this year's Willingboro team is even better than last season's 23-10 squad.

"We're much deeper than we were last season, so I feel better about our prospects," Rich said. "I just don't think we'll have as many losses as last season."

Coach Guy Fowler agrees.

"We feel we're in a better situation because we only graduated two players and we have a competitive schedule, but not as tough as last year," Fowler said in downplaying a slate that would be considered rough by most varsity standards.

Along with a pair of head-to-head matchups against division rival and defending Non-Public B state champion Trenton Catholic, the Chimeras also face perennial Group 3 power Woodrow Wilson. Also on the schedule is Trenton Central, the defending Group 4 state champion and TofC runner-up.

Of the Chimeras' surprising 10-loss total from last season, Fowler said: "Most of those were games where [Crews] fouled out or was in foul trouble early."

The coach did not hesitate to name Rich as the player who will have the most impact on the Chimeras' chances at success this season.

"She is extremely important, because every time she takes the court she changes the dynamics of the game," Fowler said. "Along with being one of the top five players I've ever had at Willingboro, she's got to be one of the top two defensively that I've ever seen."

Fowler added that Rich has been named to the McDonald's all-American preseason team, coming off a junior year that saw her average 12 points, eight assists and five steals per game.

"We knew coming in that we would have to have people to pick up, somebody to step up and fill the role that [Crews] played," Fowler said. Rich "is the leader on this team."

Fortunately, Rich won't have to go it alone.

Seniors Melanie Griffin and Angela Van Morter, and junior Stephanie Bingham saw significant minutes in last season's run. The trio combined to average 27 points, 20 rebounds and 7 steals.

"A lot of our younger kids gained great experience, so I feel as though we can achieve some of our accomplishments from last year and more," Fowler said.