Back in early December, this might have looked like a second quarter score from a Camden boys basketball game.
But Tuesday’s season-ending 41-27 victory over visiting Chapin shows just how much things have changed and how far the Bulldogs have come over the course of a 4-15 season under interim head coach Ron McKie Jr.
Half-jokingly saying that he would "sleep a lot better tonight" after his team snapped a 10-game skid while winning their first Region 4-AAA game of the season, McKie said the 14-point victory was a good way to close out his first year as a head coach after taking over for his father, who led the Dogs to the 2008-09 AAA state title.
"I’m excited for our guys," he said with a smile. "With that win, we beat Chapin by more than they beat us (14-12) so, we finished in fifth place, not in last. I’m always looking for the silver lining and that’s one."
In that first meeting in Chapin, Eagles’ guard Blake Edwards had the hot hand from beyond the 3-point arc early on. That led McKie to scrapping the defensive game plan and going to a box-and-one set to try and slow down the six-foot senior. Inside the Dog Pound on Tuesday, Edwards and, for that matter, Chapin’s entire team were slow getting out of the blocks.
Edwards ended the night with 11 points but only had one field goal in a five-point first half in which Camden carried a 26-8 lead into intermission. The Dogs scored the first nine points in this one while the Eagles were stone-cold from the field, which played right into the hands of McKie’s defense.
With Edwards being held in check, Camden extended its defense and got on the Chapin shooters which resulted in a 15-5 Bulldog lead after the first stanza.
"I decided to go with the match-up (zone) rather than starting out in a box and one," McKie said of the defensive strategy. "We did the same thing at their place but (Edwards) hit a lot more shots up there and forced us to go to the box and one. He didn’t hit too many shots tonight.
"When you can catch a team that lives and dies from beyond the 3-point line on a cold night, everything you do looks great."
The Dogs’ 9-0 game-opening run started, innocently enough, with a putback from Chad Thomas, one of the team’s three seniors. Junior guard Taylor Kelly, who led all scorers with 19 points, then added a pair of free throws and a layin before Thomas knocked down a trey to make it 9-0. Edwards stopped the bleeding for the guests with a 3-point jumper at the 4:22 mark.
Camden answered with an 8-2 spree which lasted into the second quarter with senior forward D.J. Wilson scoring on a putback with 6:31 left in the half.
The Bulldogs closed the first half on a 9-0 run over the final four and a half minutes capped by a pair of Wilson baskets, both coming off pretty feeds from junior forward Jonathon Leet as the hosts carried a somewhat worrisome 18-point advantage into the locker room at the break.
"I have to be honest; I was kind of worried," McKie said of his reaction to the halftime score. "We haven’t played with the lead much all year and I was afraid they would get too excited and forget that there are two halves to a game. We had a huge lead against Lugoff-Elgin and forgot.
"I told my guys that it was 0-0 and ‘let’s go out and bury them before the end of the third quarter.’ And for the most part, they did that."
Kelly opened the second half by floating in a five-foot runner from within the paint area. After Edwards stuck his second trey of the game, Kelly hit a 3-point jumper from the top of the key to touch off a personal 9-0 surge in which he hit an eight-foot runner before turning consecutive steals into layups. A third Kelly steal led to his finding his brother, junior center Tyrone Kelly, with a scoring pass as the lead ballooned to 39-11 with 3:25 left in the third.
"It makes me look like a great coach when the players make plays, doesn’t it?" McKie said with a laugh as to Kelly’s taking over the game in the third quarter.
"Taylor’s come on as of late: I think he’s averaging about 14 or 15 points the last four games. And he and Tyrone are finally starting to gel a little bit but it was later than I would have liked."
Using a pair of 3-pointers from Edwards to close the third and open the fourth quarter, Chapin trimmed the lead to 30-23 with 2:35 left in the contest. Taylor Kelly scored Camden’s only points of the fourth quarter and final two of the season with a drive with 1:35 remaining.
Saying that "next year looks very appealing," McKie said he was proud of the way his young team hung in there and, by season’s end, were able to find themselves after a bumpy start.
"I was a little disappointed," he said of the Bulldogs’ final record. "Losing Josh Sumpter and Delton (Bradford), two all-region guys who averaged 20 and 15 points, I knew that was going to hurt us offensively. In the beginning of the year, we didn’t have anyone step up.
"We were only out of one game and that was the first A.C. Flora game. My guys fought all year. They’re a great group and I enjoyed being with them. We just couldn’t get over the hump and finally, we got over the hump tonight. I’m just glad that we could send the seniors out with a win."
CAM (41):Chad Thomas 2 0-0 5, Taylor Kelly 8 2-2 19, Kendrick DuBose 1 0-0 2, Tyrone Kelly 2 0-0 4, D.J. Wilson 3 1-4 7, Jonathon Leet 1 0-0 2, Jericho Murphy 1 0-0 2, Tylen Turner 0 0-2 0. Totals: 18 3-9 41
Score by quarters:First: Cam, 15-5; Halftime: Cam, 26-8; Third: Cam, 39-16; Three-point goals: CHA 4 (Edwards 2, Adams 2), CAM 2 (Thomas, Tay. Kelly)