With her team coming off back-to-back wins in the post-Christmas Lake Marion Invitational and with games against region and state heavyweights Lower Richland and Dreher coming up, Camden girls’ basketball head coach Natalie Jeffcoat felt Tuesday night would be the perfect time for her team to make a statement that the Lady Bulldogs were back.
Instead, a slow start to the second half, compounded by a 26-point night from A.C. Flora guard Regan Tapp, were too much for the hostesses to overcome as the visiting Falcons walked off the Michael G. Culp Court with a 53-37 victory.
The loss came in the Region 4-AAA opener for Camden, which fell to 4-6 overall.
"It’s really disappointing," Jeffcoat said following the setback in a game knotted at 19 at halftime. "I expected things to be different tonight."
Following a see-saw first 16 minutes which saw the score tied on four occasions, Tapp --- who would score 21 second half points --- took the game over by scoring her team’s first eight points after halftime. The senior drained a pair of 15-foot jumpers, a short five-footer and a layin after a CHS turnover to give the Lady Falcons the lead for keeps at 27-19 with just under six minutes to play in the third quarter. Only a short jumper from Camden’s Audria Brooks interrupted Tapp’s one-girl onslaught.
Tapp, a 5-foot-10 guard/post player, was a match-up nightmare for the Lady Bulldogs. Her size allowed her to see over the defense while her ball-handling and shooting skills let her move around to the top of the key. As impressive as those were, her ability to move without the ball and get herself open and get to her shot was something which impressed Jeffcoat who was aware of Tapp’s skill level coming into this game.
"She had a good night shooting the ball but she works hard off the ball," said the former CHS and Lady Gamecock standout of Tapp. "She just played a good game. I thought coming in that we had an answer for her but we didn’t."
Camden would settle down after Tapp’s quick start to the second half with a pair of Treana Perry free throws which trimmed the deficit to 29-24 with 4:17 to play in the third quarter. The Lady Falcons hiked their lead to what would be a game-best nine points, at 35-26, when point guard Taylor Smith went in for a fast break layin with 100 seconds to play in the stanza.
In jumping on Camden early in the second half, the Lady Falcons turned the table on the Lady Bulldogs. Part of Jeffcoat’s halftime talk to her players dealt with taking control of the game after the break.
"We talked about how important it was to come out and really establish something at the start of the third quarter," he said of her team’s plan of attack. "But they were the ones who established something instead of us."
Brooke Dixon reduced the margin to six with a 3-point jumper 16 seconds later. With a minute left in the third, Smith took an inbounds pass and drilled a 12-footer to make it a 37-29 game. Camden would slice that margin to a more-manageable 37-32 deficit when Kentrell Salmond buried a buzzer-beating trey to cap the third stanza.
Just as Flora broke quickly from the blocks to start the third quarter, the Lady Falcons used a trey and a layin from Tapp while CHS countered with a short jumper from inside the paint area from Brooks as the guests upped their lead to 43-34 with 3:30 to play.
Camden, which was whistled for a dozen fouls as compared to four for A.C. Flora in the first half, had just three fouls going into the final four minutes of the contest as the Lady Falcons were taking air out of the ball. The Lady Bulldogs cut the lead to six, at 43-37, following Jalathea McClendon’s free throw with 1:58 to play.
A.C. Flora would then knock down seven of 10 free throws in the closing 1:37 of play to extend its lead to 50-37 before Tapp rang home a 3-point jumper as the buzzer sounded, for good measure.
Camden was able to grab an early 7-2 lead in this one before Flora went on a 9-0 run in a spree which opened with a Tapp trey and then had freshman Jordan Strange knock down six free throws in as many attempts in a 67-second span. A Salmond 3-ball in the closing five seconds drew the hostesses to within 11-10 after the first eight minutes of play.
The Lady Bulldogs took the lead for the second time as Salmond opened the second quarter with a 10-foot jumper. Camden’s final advantage of the night came on a McClendon 12-footer to make it 14-13 with 5:32 left before intermission.
Camden suffered a blow when leading scorer Brooke Dixon picked up her third personal foul with 5:09 left in the first half. That did little to help the CHS cause. But the Lady Bulldogs were able to go toe-to-toe with Flora with Dixon on the bench.
A Dayajoi Belton basket off an inbounds fee evened things at 16 with 2:48 left in the opening half. The half closed with CHS receiving a five-foot jumper from Brooks and a Perry free throw with one tick left in the halftime clock to send the two sides into their respective locker rooms deadlocked at 19.
While Tapp scored nearly half her team’s points, Camden was led by 10 points from Brooks, eight from Salmond and seven from Dixon in the loss which left Jeffcoat searching for answers.
"We definitely had this one," she said. "I felt that we really needed to get this game and that we could get it. It’s real disappointing that we didn’t come away with a win tonight."
ACF (53): CHS (37): Score by quarters:
ACF (53):Jordan Strange 2 8-11 12, Regan Tapp 9 3-4 26, Denikwa Anderson 1 2-4 4, Arianna Rhue 0 1-2 1, Kayla Myers 1 0-0 2, Taylor Smith 2 4-6 8. Totals: 15 18-27 53
CHS (37):Audria Brooks 5 0-0 10, Brooke Dixon 2 2-4 7, Janai Crim 1 0-0 2, Kentrell Salmond 3 0-0 8, Jalathea McClendon 1 1-1 3, Dayajoi Belton 2 0-1 4, Treana Perry 0 3-4 3. Totals: 14 6-11 37
Score by quarters:First: ACF, 11-10; Halftime: 19-19; Third: ACF, 37-32; Three-point goals: ACF 3 (Tapp 3), CHS 3 (Salmond 2, Dixon)