Brittany Martin put the South Jersey basketball scene on notice last year when she burst on the scene as a freshman and instantly became the best player on the Timber Creek Regional High School girls’ basketball team and one of the top young players in the Olympic Conference.
Twelve months later, Martin is back at it again—this time with a more polished arsenal of shots and the experience of succeeding at the varsity level.
On Friday, she willed her teammates to a nail-biting victory over Glassboro in the final of the 11th annual James G. Atkinson Memorial Holiday Basketball Classic at Gloucester County College.
Martin hit a leaning jumper from seven feet out with 53 seconds left to give the Chargers the lead for good in a 45-43 victory. Martin finished with 27 points, giving her 49 points over a two-game span and earning her the tournament's Most Valuable Player award.
“She worked hard all offseason,” Timber Creek coach Donna Clark said. “Her handle has improved; her outside shot and her drive to the basket have both improved. Really, all aspects of her game and her leadership have seen growth. I think that leadership is a big part of her.”
Martin said she worked on pulling up and hitting jumpers as well as her outside shot over the course of the offseason.
“I have been doing a lot of hard work during the summer during AAU and I practiced with the boys during the summer," Martin said. "All of that helps me.”
Martin scored 16 points in the first half, keeping a sluggish Chargers' squad within 24-22 at the break. Martin admitted the team overlooked Glassboro, which led to a sloppy start.
“We thought it was going to be an easier game, so to speak, but they came out ready to play,” said Martin. “We picked it up and in the end we were able to pull it out.”
Timber Creek trailed 20-13 late in the first half, but Martin scored seven points over the final 1:47 to keep the Chargers within striking distance.
“When we are going that slow and I see the score and that they are just creeping and creeping away, I know it’s time for me to go and score as many as I can,” said Martin.
“She’s a competitor,” Clark said. “There were a couple of times when she got fouls called against her and I could see it in her face that she was like, 'Alright, I’m going to get that back.’ She refuses to give up or lose. If she makes mistakes for the team she is going to make sure she corrects them.”
Timber Creek trailed for most of the third quarter but took its first lead since the first quarter when Martin drained a three-pointer with 20 seconds left. Junior Amanda Riiff followed with a steal that led to a pair of free throws, giving Creek a 36-33 lead entering the third quarter.
The lead flip-flopped for much of the fourth quarter before Martin hit the leaning jumper to put the Chargers ahead 44-43 with 53 seconds left. Glassboro was called for traveling on its next possession and Courtney Reese hit one of two free throws to put Timber Creek up two with nine seconds left. The Bulldogs had a chance to tie it at the buzzer, but Rebecca Donnelly’s jump shot rattled off the rim.
Timber Creek improved to 3-2, while also proving they could win a close game.
“We were in a close game against Washington Township and didn’t pull it out, so this was real big,” Clark said. “We are going to have a lot of close games like this so they need to know that they have the poise to do it.”