By Phil Anastasia
Unlike most teams, Willingboro has two records.
One without Shaun Russell.
One with Russell.
"We're a different team," Willingboro coach Jeff Haddock said of the impact of Russell, a 6-3 senior who sat out the first 30 days of the season as a transfer from Westampton Tech.
Russell scored 24 with four assists and three rebounds Thursday night as Willingboro beat Cinnaminson 70-46 in a Burlington County League Patriot Division game in the Chimeras' gymnasium.
The victory evened Willingboro's record at 9-9.
But the Chimeras are 6-1 since Russell took the floor and the only loss was by 71-70 on a buzzer-beater by Rutgers Prep.
"I'm an all-around player and I can fit in well with my teammates," Russell said. "I'm just trying to help them out and they're trying to help me out."
Russell said it was difficult to sit out the first 30 days of his senior season.
"I had a countdown going on," Russell said. "I had to wait for my time to get here and now that it's here I want to take advantage of it."
Senior center Xavier Wilson generated 13 points and 10 rebounds for Cinnaminsion (9-10).
"It was a cold night for us," Cinnaminson coach Mike Fries said of his team's shooting. "But they (Willingboro) contested a lot of those shots."
Russell said he has lived in Willingboro since moving there from Brooklyn in fourth grade. He said he decided to attend Westampton Tech because his parents believed it offered better educational opportunities.
Russell transferred to Willingboro in April.
"I saw them win a (South Jersey Group 2) championship last year, how close the players were with each other," Russell said of Willingboro. "I wanted to be part of that."
Said Haddock: "I'm glad he came back to finish. This is where he belongs."
Russell is a smooth left-handed player with a knack for getting to the basket. His first hoop against Cinnaminson was a deep jumper but he scored most of his points on drives.
"It helps being left-handed," Russell said. "They don't expect that."
Haddock said Russell's understanding of the game helped ease his transition to the Chimeras' system.
"He understands how to play," Haddock said. "He has an eye for action."
With Russell in the lineup, Willingboro looms as a strong contender in the South Jersey Group 2 tournament, even as a projected No. 8 seed.
The Chimeras are expected to get another boost on Feb. 12, when another transfer from Westampton Tech becomes eligible.
That would be 6-6 junior Awwal Reid, who averaged 19 points in eigth games this season for Westampton Tech.
"He's a high-flier," Haddock said.
Russell believes Willingboro can win the state tournament. If form holds, Willingboro would play at top-seeded Haddonfield in the second round in a rematch of last year's sectional title game won by the Chimeras.
"I expect us to win it all," Russell said. "That's our ultimate goal. That's what we're here for."
Cinnaminson 8 11 13 14 -- 46
Willingboro 17 16 19 18 -- 70
C: Dan Haddon 9, Kevin Sotell 4, Xavier Wilson 13, Jackson Merget 4, Jack Hart 12, Matt Gono 2, Will Cabbler 2.
W: Shaun Russell 24, Thomas Farrier 13, Tirique Robinson 6, Anthony Robbins 6, Aaron Briggs 14, Joe Taylor 3, Anthony Chambers 2, Carry Saturne 2.
Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.