Games like these are not the ones you want to go into at anything less than 100 percent.
With her team’s two leading scorers out with an injury and the flu, respectively, Camden girls’ head coach Natalie Jeffcoat was short-handed in what turned out to be a 68-39 loss to a veteran Lakewood squad in a Tuesday night game played on the Michael G. Culp Court at Camden High School.
The setback left the hostesses with a 1-4 regular season record heading into tonight’s game at rival Lugoff-Elgin.
Lakewood, which entered the season ranked second in the AAA South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association (SCBCA) poll, was led by 26 points from Sonora Dengokl. The 5-foot-7 senior guard and UNC-Asheville signee was part of the SCBCA’s top five players in the AAA ranks coming into this season.
With senior guard and leading scorer Brooke Dixon missing a second straight start due to a finger injury, and junior guard Ariyan Massey not available due to the flu, Jeffcoat’s troops were able to get within seven points, 30-23, in the closing two minutes of the first half only to see the Gators pull away to a 57-37 advantage after three quarters. LHS would waltz home with their second win over Camden this season.
"Every time we would get close, they would push the lead back up," Jeffcoat said.
"We were really short-handed guard-wise tonight. Wse don’t have a lot of (guards) anyway. They pressed pretty consistently and that may have worn us down a little bit. But we just have to play better. We have to play better defense."
Camden was able to hang around with the Gators early on with an Audria Brooks stickback closing out the first quarter with the Lady Bulldogs trailing, 17-10.
With Dengokl starting to take things over, the visitors’ lead went up to 30-17 thanks to Dengokl scoring eight of her team’s first 13 points of the second quarter. CHS was not about to go away easily. Kiaya Weathers put back a missed shot and added the accompanying free throw to make it 30-20 with 2:04 left before intermission. Camden’s Kentrell Salmond then was good on a long-range trey and with 1:41 before halftime, the Lady Bulldogs trailed, 30-23.
Lakewood answered that flurry with three points from Taja Randolph to carry a 33-23 lead into the locker room. The advantage grew to 19 points, at 47-28, as Dengokl scored half of LHS’ first 14 points in the third quarter. Camden hung around thanks to 3-balls from Janai Crim and one from Treana Perry, the latter of which made it 47-31 with 3:46 left in the third.
The lead stayed at 16 after Salmond’s 3-pointer with 54 ticks left in the third quarter clock made it a 52-36 game. But Dengokl all but put this one to bed with her quarter-closing trifecta as the Gators went up, 57-37.
While the LHS press may have wore her team down as the game went along, Jeffcoat said her girls need to stay focused for the full 32 minutes of play.
"We might have been a little tired," she said. "But we get so discouraged. It’s a mental thing as much as it is a physical thing in being able to bounce back after bad stuff happens."
Dixon could be available as early as tonight as Camden gets its second shot at L-E, which it defeated a week ago in Camden. Jeffcoat said her team needs to put this loss behind them as they prepare to meet a one-win Lady Demon squad which has had more than its share of injuries already this season.
"That’s the thing about basketball," she said. "Until it’s the end of the season, you always have that next game. Hopefully, we can get things right by the time we play again."
CHS (39):Treana Perry 3 0-0 7, Audria Brooks 5 0-0 10, Dayajoi Belton 2 0-1 4, Laniya Mingo 1 0-0 3, Kiaya Weathers 1 1-1 3, Kentrell Salmond 3 1-4 9, Janai Crim 1 0-0 3. Totals: 16 2-6 39
Score by quarters:First: LHS, 17-10; Halftime: LHS, 33-23; Third: LHS, 57-37; Three-point goals: LHS 3 (Dengokl 2, Madison), CHS 5 (Salmond 2, Crim, Perry, Mingo)