Even with some of the better teams he has had at Camden, head coach Ron McKie was sometimes left scratching his head as to why they Bulldogs were not a better shooting team on their home court.
During Sunday’s practice leading up to Tuesday’s game with visiting Fairfield Central, McKie told his players they should be shooting at a higher percentage when playing on the Michael G. Culp Court. Message received.
Knocking down a season-best 10 3-point shots and erupting for 28 third quarter points, the Dogs locked down another state tournament berth with a 77-52 victory to improve to 12-8 overall and, more importantly, 3-2 in Region 4-AAA play.
As he entered an adjoining classroom to discuss his team’s win, McKie broke out in a smile and, maybe, a bit of amazement as to the lopsided final outcome. In their first meeting with the Griffins, the Bulldogs needed a buzzer-beating Landon Goodwin 3-point jumper to escape Winnsboro and overtime to come away a 52-49 winner.
When told of the Dogs’ making 10 shots from distance, McKie said he was hardly surprised given his team’s propensity for hoisting up long-range shots.
“We love to shoot, them, too. Unfortunately, we haven’t been shooting like that all year,” he said.
“We came up here Sunday and all we did was shoot. I said to our guys that this is our gym and we have to shoot better in our own gym … most teams do. I think they finally figured it out and they were comfortable taking their shots. That’s why you want to get a playoff game at home.”
The Dogs can help themselves in that respect tonight when Chester comes into the Dog Pound. The Cyclones sit a half-game ahead of Camden in conference play with a 4-2 record with both losses coming to league-leading Keenan.
Camden, which lost to the Cyclones, 62-53, in Chester earlier this season, could use another hot shooting night this evening like it enjoyed Tuesday. With a roster thinned to eight players, all the Dogs found their way onto the scorebook led by junior guard Kasean Crews who scored a game-best 23 points including four 3-point bombs. Classmate Devante Johnson was next with 13 points with three baskets from beyond the arc while fellow juniors Landon Goodwin and Trajon Pate added nine points each. Seniors Jalyn Dubose and Bryce Jeffcoat were next with seven apiece.
The hosts outscored FC (4-15, 0-5 in 4-AAA), 49-24, in the second half. It was a 3-ball from Pate, in the final 15 seconds of the opening half, though, to even things at 28 going into the break which seemingly lit a fire under the Dogs.
“I told our guys that the last time we played them, we only beat them by three on a last-second shot and, even though they haven’t won a region game, they’ve been playing everybody tough except Keenan, like the rest of us” McKie said of the Griffins. “They’re playing for their season. They win one or two games and they’re right back in the playoff hunt. They’re not going to just come out here and lay down for us knowing that they probably should have beaten us at their gym.”
It took several minutes for Camden to start taking control of a game in which it led, 35-34, with a little more than five minutes to play in the third quarter. The Dogs closed the stanza on a 21-5 run touched off by a short jumper from Pate at the 5:08 marker. A traditional 3-point play and a 10-foot jumper from Jeffcoat sandwiched a Johnson 3-ball in an 8-0 rally to extend the lead to 50-37.
A pair of Crews 3-point missiles closed the third with the hosts carrying a commanding, 56-39, lead heading into a fourth quarter which opened with a Johnson trifecta coming after a pair of Dwight Coleman free throws as the Dogs padded their cushion at 61-39 with 6:38 left to play in the game.
“We had a great third quarter,” McKie said of the eight-minute stretch in which his team received nine points from Crews and seven from Jeffcoat while clamping down on defense, especially, against FC Charlie Cason, who did not play in the first meeting. The junior guard led the guests with 21 points with 11 of those coming in the first quarter.
“I checked at halftime and said that I didn’t remember him from our first game and, with good reason,” McKie said of Cason who had just six second half points. “He was shooting and scoring. He makes them a better team. He was hurting us early. We didn’t know about him. I thought we did a good job of shutting him down in the second half.”
It was Cason’s shooting which helped the Griffins grab the early 10-4 lead. Camden then went on a 7-0 run to go on top, 14-10, only for Cason to score six of the final seven points of the quarter including a trey which dropped as the buzzer sounded to break a 14-14 tie.
Getting 3-balls from Goodwin, Nate Quattlebaum and Crews, the Bulldogs opened the second stanza on an 11-2 run to take the 25-19 advantage halfway into the quarter. FC responded by scoring the next nine straight points to regain the upper hand at 28-25 only to see Pate’s 3-point jumper level things at 28 heading into the locker room at halftime.
His team roster whittled to eight players due to injuries and defections, McKie said he has to choose when to apply and take off the pressure on defense. And foul trouble is also a concern for this depth-challenged group of Bulldogs.
“With only eight,” he said, “we have to play a lot of 2-3 zone and keep out of foul trouble. We press, but we can’t be too aggressive; but you have to press some. We really work on playing defense without grabbing. The early part of the season, we would foul people 94 feet away from the basket. We are trying to teach them that, out of the lane, you don’t foul and, you don’t foul jump shooters. That’s a concern anytime that you have low numbers. Our guys have done a good job with that.”
FC (52): Charlie Cason 7 5-8 21, J.R. Edmonds 2 0-1 4, Melvin Peay 1 0-0 3, Jaylen Craig 2 1-2 5, Montraivis White 4 2-3 13, Justice Boyd 0 2-2 2, Jordan Boyd 2 0-0 4. Totals: 18 10-16 52
CHS (77): Kasean Crews 7 3-3 23, Jalyn Dubose 3 1-1 7, Devante Johnson4 2-2 13, Landon Goodwin 2 4-4 9, Nate Quattlebaum 2 0-1 5, Trajon Pate 4 0-1 9, Bryce Jeffcoat 3 1-1 7, Dwight Coleman 1 2-2 4. Totals: 26 13-15 77
Score by quarters: First: FC, 17-14; Halftime: Tied at 28; Third: CHS, 56-39; Three-point goals: FC 5 (White 3, Cason 2), CHS 10 (Crews 4, Johnson 3, Goodwin, Pate, Quattlebaum)