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Small ball carries Dogs into round 3

Four-guard lineup helps CHS get past Clinton, 65-61, in OT

Posted: February 19, 2018 3:47 p.m.
Updated: February 20, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

CAMDEN’S CAM JEFFERSON DRIVES to the basket and past Clinton’s Vilo Boyd during Friday’s AAA Upper State second round contest played inside the Dog Pound. The Bulldogs host Southside tonight at 7 p.m. in the Upper State semifinals.

In what amounted to a chess match on hardwood, Ron McKie played Clinton head coach Eddie Romines like Bobby Fischer.

When Romines entered 6-foot-5 senior center Zay Hurley into Friday’s AAA Upper State second round tournament game in Camden, McKie countered by going to his bench and bringing another guard onto the court.

Checkmate Camden.

The host Bulldogs rallied from a nine-point third quarter deficit and later used a Donovan Belton layin with 12 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime. Camden proceeded to outscore the visiting Red Devils in the four-minute extra session, 10-6, to take a 65-61 victory in a game before a raucous crowd inside the Dog Pound.

Once again, AAA All-State guard Cam Jefferson led a balanced Camden attack with 21 points while fellow senior teammates Devin Martin, Belton and Jericho Murphy were next with 16, 15 and eight points, respectively, on a night in which all but three of the Bulldogs’ points came from their senior players.

Even when his team trailed inthe second half, McKie said he never lost confidence in his senior-heavy group.

“They have a lot of fight in them,” said the Bulldog boss. “I see it a lot in practice when I have to calm them down. I knew they weren’t going to quit tonight and, they didn’t.

“These seniors have been playing for a long time. I tell them that it’s a players’ game and when it comes down to it, they have to make the shot. They have to make the play because I can’t come out there and do it for you. To their credit, they stepped up tonight.”

The Bulldogs (16-7) will host top-ranked Southside in tonight’s third round pairing set for a 7 p.m. start on the Michael G. Culp Court. The winner will meet the winner of the Chester at Walhalla game on Saturday at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville for the Upper State crown.

Camden, which extended its win streak to nine on Friday, did so by scoring the final five points in the closing 51 seconds of regulation play to send the game into overtime.

With 1:15 left in the fourth quarter, Clinton took a 55-50 lead on Hurley’s short jumper from the baseline.  Jefferson then knocked down his fifth 3-point shot of the game with 50.3 ticks left in the clock to draw the Dogs within a pair which drew a quick time out from McKie.

Clinton wilted against the Camden defensive pressure, throwing a pass out of bounds five seconds later. The Dogs possessed the ball until a loose ball was last touched by Clinton under the Camden basket with 13.9 seconds left in regulation as McKie called another time out to call for an inbounds pass play which was designed for Belton a 6-foot-2 forward.

“I said, if they go man, I told Donovan to seal his man. I noticed in the game when he sealed his man and rolled to the basket, he was getting open. But don’t wait too long to seal and roll,” McKie said of his instructions in the team huddle.

“I told Malik Green (who was throwing the ball inbounds) to look for Donovan because they are going to fan out on our shooters and they are going to forget that guy. Sure enough, Donovan came up and was open under the basket. 

“We ran the play right for a change and Donovan comes down the lane for the (game-tying) basket.”

The play worked just as it was drawn up as Belton laid home the tying basket and was fouled but missed the free throw. Clinton hurriedly tried to get the final shot off only to have to settle for a 17-foot Hurley heave which missed the mark to send the game into overtime.

A Belton steal turned into a Jefferson layin and a free throw with 3:25 left to kick off the overtime scoring. A traveling call gave the ball back to the Dogs, who had a 58-55 lead with 3:09 to play as the hosts milked the clock before Green was fouled with 2:28 left and the senior knocked down both tries. A traveling violation against the Red Devils 14 seconds later gave the ball back to Camden which, at the time, was doing whatever it took to draw Hurley away from the basket and make him come out to guard a smaller, quicker player.

“Anytime they had (Hurley) in the game, I put another guard out there to get another ballhandler in the game,” McKie said of going to a smaller rotation. “Whoever got him was instructed to get the ball to the top near half court, hand the ball off and draw (Hurley) out there. 

“First of all, he didn’t come all the way out there so we could run time off the clock and if he did come up, we wanted to turn the corner on him and pull it back out. The clock was our enemy. We had to keep that thing moving.”

A Murphy free throw with 1:22 remaining boosted the Camden lead to 61-55 as Clinton looked to guard Jadarius Payne to try and bring the Red Devils back. The junior guard, who scored all 20 of his points in the first half, was blanketed by Murphy and missed a 3-ball with just more than a minute to play which was rebounded by the Dogs who would turn the ball over seconds later which led to a Jahleed Cook drive and a free throw as the guests closed the gap to 61-58.

With 42.1 seconds left, Martin knocked down a pair of free throws. Clinton then missed another try from distance and would knock the ball out of bounds with 26.9 seconds showing. Martin took the inbounds pass, was fouled and with 20.5 seconds to go, hit both free throws to secure this one at 65-61. A Zay Bennett trey with five seconds showing was too little too late for the guests.

It was a nail-biting finish for a contest which opened with the Dogs having their way in the eraly going.

Camden came out hot, using two treys from Jefferson and one from Murphy to break out to a 13-4 lead in the game’s opening four and a half minutes. Clinton settled down and closed the gap to 14-11 after the first stanza.

After a strong start, Camden went cold and was not able to finish possessions. Meanwhile, Payne, who came into the contest averaging 14 points per game, took over and poured in 14 of his team’s 18 second quarter points as the Red Devils led, 29-21, before Martin’s 3-point jumper closed the first half scoring with Camden trailing, 29-24, at the break.

During halftime, McKie made a defensive adjustment which all but took Payne out of the game.

“Taking (Payne) out who had 20 points in the first half and making the other four play, we gave up some easy baskets but I still felt confident that we could stop them,” McKie said of his team’s defensive strategy. “We didn’t shoot the ball well in the second half and we settled for too many jump shots after we got in the bonus, though.”

Even with Payne being accounted for by the Camden defense, Clinton added to its lead in the second half. A Belton tip-in made it 33-29 with 3:45 left in the third but the Red Devils answered with a 3-ball from Cook and a Zack James layup to hike the advantage to a game-high nine points at 38-29.

Camden would respond by closing the third stanza on a 7-0 run in the closing 1:44 with Jefferson sandwiching a pair of Belton free throws with a 3-point jumper and a strip/steal at half court which turned into a layin to draw the hosts within 38-36 heading into the final quarter.

McKie said as long as Camden stayed within single digits of the lead, he was not ready to push the panic button.

“When we got down by nine in the second half, it didn’t look too good,” he admitted. “As long as it didn’t get past 10 points, I thought that we could chip away at it. I didn’t feel like they had the ballhandlers or the shooters to finish the game.”

Camden closed the gap to a pair on three different occasions in the fourth quarter with the third of those coming on a layin from junior center Jalyn Dubose, off a Martin feed, to make it 50-48 with 2:21 to go in regulation. 

Hurley, who scored 12 points off the bench, widened the gap to 53-48 with a traditional 3-point play 21 seconds later. A Martin drive to the basket cut it to 53-50 with 1:49 showing on the fourth quarter clock which came nearly 45 seconds before Hurley’s short jumper extended the lead to 55-50 before Camden’s wild late-game comeback.

“We saw some mismatches that we exploited in overtime to get ahead and everything worked well,” McKie said of his team’s ability to come away with their ninth consecutive home win --- in 10 home games --- this season.

The fifth-ranked Bulldogs can improve their mark on their home floor tonight against a Southside squad which handed Camden a 65-52 second round loss in Greenville a season ago. McKie knows he has a more mature team this time around and expects the Dogs to be able to put Friday’s emotional win behind them and be back in the groove tonight.

“They understand that now, it’s survive and advance,” McKie said of his team’s collective mindset. “Southside is the number one team in the state and has some big old boys but I think our kids want to play them again … a little revenge factor. We had to go play them up there last year in front of that hostile crow and, it rattled our kids in the second half.

“We’ll play anybody, though. These seniors know what’s out there and that it’s theirs. They’ve worked hard and they know when they have to step up.”

Clinton (61): Jadarius Payne 8 0-1 20, Zay Hurley 4 4-5 12, Konnor Richardson 1 0-0 2, Zack James 4 0-0 8, Jahleed Cook 3 1-1 8, Zay Bennett 3 0-0 7, Ty Priestley 1 0-0 2. Totals: 26 5-7 61

Camden (65): Cam Jefferson 7 2-3 21, Donovan Belton 5 3-5 16, Jericho Murphy 2 3-4 8, Devin Martin 5 5-6 16, Trajon Pate 0 1-2 1, Jayln Dubose 1 0-0 2, Malik Green 0 2-2 2. Totals: 20 16-22 65

Score by quarters: First: Camden, 14-11; Halftime: Clinton, 29-24; Third: Clinton. 38-36; End of regulation, 55-55; Three-point goals: Clinton 4 (Payne 2, Cook, Bennett), Camden 9 (Jefferson 5, Belton 2, Murphy, Martin)


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