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Lady Bulldogs shrug off slow start to lock down third place in Region 4
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CAMDEN HEAD COACH Natalie Jeffcoat talks to her team during a time in Tuesday’s 51-38 win over Indian Land. The Lady Bulldogs open AAA state tournament play Monday at either Pendleton or, Powdersville. - photo by Tom Didato/C-I

Chalk it up to trying to send the seniors off on a strong note. Or, maybe, the Camden girls’ basketball team was trying to match its three-points per minute outing from its last game, a 96-53 win over Chester.

Whatever the case, something was definitely not clicking for the Lady Bulldogs who trailed visiting Indian Land, 23-8, three minutes into the second quarter of Tuesday’s final region home contest. The double-digit deficit to a team which CHS dismantled, 59-34, three weeks earlier in Lancaster County was a bit alarming to even Lady Bulldog head coach Natalie Jeffcoat.

As the hostesses finally settled down, normalcy returned as Camden went on a 30-9 tear after trailing by 15 points to leave the Michael G. Culp Court with a harder-than-expected 51-38 victory.

The win sewed up third place in Region 4-AA for the Lady Bulldogs who took a 4-3 conference and a 16-6 overall mark into Thursday’s regular season finale. 

Camden opens AAA Upper State tournament play Monday on the road against the winner of Thursday night’s Pendleton vs. Powdersville game --- in the tie-breaker for second place in Region 1. Monday’s playoff contest will have a 7 p.m. start.

Before looking ahead to the postseason, Camden first had to get past Indian Land which, with two wins in its last two games combined with a pair of Lady Bulldog losses, could have climbed into a third-place tie with Jeffcoat and company who got off to a rocky start after Tiyana Peterson canned a 3-ball and a 17-foot jumper in the opening minute to get CHS off to a quick 5-0 start.

From that point, led by nine points from junior center Kristen Falk, the Lady Warriors closed the first eight minutes on a 20-3 run against a CHS unit which started seniors Zy Aja Cook, Kendra White and Amarhi Boykin. Whether it was trying to do too much or, having so much energy to start the game, Camden struggled to get into an early groove.

“We started all our seniors and, I think everyone was trying to play really well for them,” Jeffcoat said. “Maybe, we were pressing a little too much.”

Camden used the press to get back into the thick of things as it answered a 3-point shot from IL’s Allie Floyd, which opened the second quarter, by embarking on a 16-2 run.

The tear started when sophomore J’ Teanna Lee scored two of her 13 points by driving the lane for a basket. A basket and free throw from seventh-grade forward Joyce Edwards followed. Trailing, 25-13, with less than four minutes left before halftime, the Lady Bulldogs rattled off 11 unanswered points starting the a 3-ball from Lee and ending with Lee slipping through defenders for a layup which closed the gap to 25-24 with 75 seconds left in a first half which ended with the Lady Warriors getting a layup from Falk, who led all scorers with 19 points, as the visitors went into the locker room holding a precarious 27-24 lead.

Having put so much effort into the second quarter comeback, Jeffcoat said she was concerned as to how much gas was left in her team’s tank for the second half.

“I felt like if we could keep our defensive intensity that our defensive pressure would continue to give them trouble if we could just continue to stay after it,” she said. “I was just happy to see the ball going in the basket for us because it looked as if we might be going into one of our dry spells.”

Camden hardly suffered a letdown as it came out and scored the first nine points of the second half with sophomore guard Imani Wyatt scoring six of her 13 points in the opening four-minute stretch which ended with an Edwards 15-foot jumper increasing the lead to 33-27 with 4;12 left in the third.

A Falk jumper trimmed the deficit to 36-29 before Cook bottomed out a trey at the 3:20 marker before Wyatt drove the paint for a pair to make it 38-29 in a third quarter which ended with a Floyd putback in the closing five seconds to get the visitors within seven at 38-31 entering the final quarter of play.

 Falk free throw drew IL within six points before Edwards, who led Camden with 14 points, had a stickback and a pair of free throws to push the lead to twin figures at 42-32 with 3:41 showing on the game clock.

The lead stood at 43-36 with less than two minutes to play before Camden sealed the deal with three unanswered baskets from, in order, Lee, Edwards and Wyatt, the last of those coming with 70 seconds left.

“We just stayed after it,” Jeffcoat said of her team’s bumpy start. “Sometimes, we don’t really respond well to that kind of adversity as well as we should. Hopefully, tonight will be a little bit of a confidence-booster where you can say that we just keep after it, keep playing the right and good things are going to happen.”

IL (38): Gabriella Wilson 3 1-2 7, Kristen Falk 8 3-8 19, Crystal Strother 3 0-0 6, Chelsi Mackey 0 1-3 1, Allie Floyd 2 0-2 5. Totals: 16 5-15 38

CHS (51): Tiyana Peterson 2 1-4 6, Imani Wyatt 6 1-2 13, Joyce Edwards 5 4-6 14, J’Teanna Lee 5 1-2 12, Kendra White 1 0-0 2, Zy Aja Cook 1 1-2 4. Totals: 20 8-16 51

Score by quarters: First: IL, 20-8; Halftime: IL, 27-34; Third: CHS, 38-31; Three-point goals: IL 1 (Floyd), CHS 2 (Peterson, Cook)