BURLINGTON TOWNSHIP - The odds looked to be against the Burlington Township High School basketball team on Wednesday night.
The Falcons were down three key players due to COVID-19 protocols and were forced to adjust their approach and game plan versus a red-hot Moorestown team.
Whether that meant decreasing the aggressiveness and defending their opponent man-to-man in the half court (which they preferred not to do), or burning timeouts to regain energy and hydration, Township knew it had to do things differently against its divisional foe.
After all, head coach Ryan Derry was still determined to check another box off his to-do list.
That mission was accomplished as Burlington Township held off the Quakers, 61-52, in a Burlington County Scholastic League Liberty Division matchup on Wednesday. It marked the first time the Falcons defeated Moorestown during Derry’s tenure.
“It’s huge,” Derry said. “They’re such a well-coached team. Realistically in South Jersey basketball, especially Group 3, they’re the cream of the crop. My guys just played so unbelievably hard tonight. For that reason alone, I’m incredibly proud of them. It’s a huge win for our program.”
Burlington Township jumped out to a 20-12 lead after the first stanza by dominating with its athleticism, size and speed. 6-foot-7 forward Amar Lane set the tone with a monstrous two-hand slam in transition and a series of blocks to energize both the crowd and his teammates. His presence in the low post opened up opportunities for the Falcons on the perimeter.
Moorestown’s Lamar Davis came off the bench early in the second quarter and retaliated with back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the deficit to 20-18 with 6:39 left in the second quarter forcing the Falcons to call a timeout.
The Quakers delivered a punch, but Township regrouped and responded with a 13-0 run to eventually accumulate a 14-point lead going into halftime.
“We preach defense in practice,” junior Maurice Crump said. “We basically just stopped them. We get stops, we win the game and that’s what we did (tonight).”
Crump led the Falcons with a team-high 17 points. Junior Jordan Poole added 15 and Harvard football commit Jordan Dotson poured in 12.
Poole scored 11 of his 15 in the first half and nailed two 3-pointers to help establish an early cushion. The quick start helped alleviate the absence of those sidelined with COVID-related issues.
Unfortunately for Burlington Township, those absences aren’t unfamiliar dilemmas. Dotson was sidelined for a pair of games in late December. Lane was unavailable in a key matchup against Monroe Township. Jeton Brice, Gavin White and Leland Williams were all unable to compete on Wednesday.
Derry’s crew continues to face adversity, but they are powering through it and finding ways to compete and establish chemistry in the process.
“From the beginning of the season, we’ve had guys coming in and out,” Poole said. “We know the group of kids we have. We know what we gotta do out there on the court no matter who is out there.”
“We haven’t had a full roster since our second game at Rancocas Valley,” Derry added. “Every day at practice is different, every lineup is different. I like to think of this as a close knit group and a family. They truly play for each other. I’ll play anybody at any time with the group that I have because they give effort. That’s all you can ask for.”
Moe Airall led the Quakers with a game-high 21 points. The senior developed a rhythm and sank four 3-pointers in the second half to help keep Moorestown within striking distance. David Gheysens added 14 and Davis finished with six.
Not only did the Falcons never beat Moorestown with Derry manning the sideline. They lost three times to the boys in black and gold last season by a combined 42 points.
Burlington Township was relieved to finally reverse those undesired outcomes.
“I’ve been playing varsity since my freshman year and we’ve always fell short to them,” Dotson said. “It feels great. It gives us good momentum for the rest of the season.”