Ron McKie Jr. would make a terrible "spin doctor" on one of the many Sunday morning TV talk shows in which men and women try to convince viewers that the news and facts may not be as good or, as bad, as they may seem.
So, when asked to summarize his team’s 89-56 dismantling by second-ranked A.C. Flora on Tuesday night on the Michael G. Culp Court, the interim Camden boys’ basketball coach did not try to put a happy face on a mess of an evening.
"Thank God it’s over with," he said as he waited to talk to his team following their Region 4-AAA opener. "If (A.C. Flora) is not playing for the state championship, I’d like to see the two teams that are."
McKie then talked about what he believed was a sub-par effort from his team.
"(USC men’s basketball coach) Frank Martin said something on the radio the other day which I liked," McKie said. "He said, ‘In the game of basketball, you’re going to lose. If you can’t get used to that, then you shouldn’t be coaching basketball.’
"What I hated is how we lost tonight. We didn’t go down fighting. That first quarter, it was like we were scared. They danced on our floor. We didn’t trap right and we were just jogging back on defense while A.C. Flora’s whole team was sprinting. We were amazed that they dunked and it was not just a glorified layup."
The Falcons (9-3) played as if they had a chip on their shoulder after having been dropped to second in the most recent South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association AAA state poll. The defending state champions scored the game’s first 14 points to put this one away. Flora’s lead stretched to 41 points on a pair of occasions, the second time coming on a James Reese putback to make it 68-27 with 3:21 to play in the third quarter.
A.C. Flora’s dominance began before the opening tip as the visitors trotted out a lineup including 6-foot-9 Middle Tennessee State signee Karl Gamble, 6-foot-6 forward James Murray-Boyles, 6-foot-3 guard James Reese and 6-foot-1 guard Rion Davis. Things would go downhill from there as the Falcons’ length gave the Bulldogs (3-7) fits to the point in which the hosts shot 15 percent (18-of-119) from the field on the evening.
Flora --- which was 37-for-87 from the floor --- made a living inside scoring 46 points on layins, 12 on six slam dunks and another 10 on putbacks which accounted for all but 21 of their points on a night in which each team turned the ball over 28 times.
"We want to create 30 turnovers a game," McKie said, "but it doesn’t really help when you turn the ball over 28 times, as well."
This one would get out of hand quickly as the guests used two dunks from Murray-Boyles and one from Gamble, the latter of which capped a 14-0 game-opening spurt which took place in the first two minutes and 45 seconds of play. Camden broke the ice with a 3-point jumper from Tyler Turner at the 5:40 marker of the first stanza.
The guests never slowed down in carrying an already commanding 29-11 lead into the second quarter after a first eight minutes in which Murray-Boyles scored 10 of his 18 points while Davis added eight. Flora never drifted outside the paint area in making 14 first quarter shots from the field to go along with one free throw. The lane, as well as this game, was theirs for the taking.
Not stepping into the foul lane while allowing the Falcons unobstructed views of the basket was one of several issues which McKie discussed with his team during halftime as well as throughout the course of the contest.
"I asked them how difficult it was to step up and take a charge," he said of Flora’s procession of uncontested layups. "I’m never going to ask someone to do something that I wasn’t able to do when I played. I’m not going to say, ‘Hey, jump higher and run faster.’ Lord knows, I was the slowest player and worst jumper ever, but I took charges because it’s not that difficult.
"If someone’s coming, you step up; it’s a foul on them and a turnover. My guys didn’t want to do that. They wanted to try and be Lebron James and send a (blocked) shot into the fifth row in the stands."
As poorly as things started for the Dogs, who were led by center D.J. Wilson’s 10 points, it would get worse as Flora showed no signs of slowing down in outscoring the hosts, 26-10, in the second quarter in which first-year Falcon head coach Joshua Staley went to his bench early. The visitors outscored CHS, 18-3, in the first five-plus minutes of the stanza to pull away to a 47-14 lead which stood at 55-21 at intermission.
McKie said when trailing, the Bulldogs started taking ill-advised shots hoping to somehow make a dent in the substantial deficit. "I guess my kids must have thought there was that magical shot that would give us 10 or 15 points when we hit it because they were jacking it up."
Rather than try to slow the game down to a crawl, McKie stuck to his guns. The Bulldogs pressed full-court with a run-and-jump scheme. And while the Falcons were able to see and pass over their smaller defenders, the CHS boss said his players did not get after it on the defensive end the way he anticipated.
"I’m not going to change anything up. That’s my personality," he said of pressing full-court. "That’s my philosophy and I honestly believe if that’s your philosophy, you stick with it.
"I tell my kids to mirror the ball. If the ball is over the defender’s head, then your hands have to be up. If your hands are down by your side, a 2-year-old can be able to see over a horrible trap like that. If the initial trap isn’t good, that just ruins everything else."
Playing his starters to open the second half, Staley saw his troops cushion their lead to 41 points in a third quarter which closed with the Falcons’ reserves taking the floor and closing out a game in which Camden had a fourth-quarter opening 7-0 run before closing with a 12-3 surge to end the night.
Coming off a 1-2 performance in the previous week’s Farm Bureau Classic in Chesterfield, Camden fell to 3-7 on the year and have now lost six of their past seven games after a 2-1 start to the season.
While A.C. Flora is, by far, the best team the Bulldogs have faced and will face until Tevin Mack and top-ranked Dreher come to the Dog Pound next Tuesday, McKie said this was far from his team’s best effort to this point in the season.
"I just asked them," he said of his halftime talk to his players, "if this was our first game of the year and not our 10th and if we hadn’t been practicing about 20 to 25 times and, did I give them something new that they just forgot. I could understand if I gave them something new and introduced it on Sunday and I was mad that we weren’t doing it. But we’ve been doing this same stuff since the beginning of the year."
ACF (89):Rion Davis 6 2-3 14, Kendale Hampton 3 0-1 6, Tyler Gray 2 0-1 4, James Murray-Boyles 8 2-2 18, Karl Gamble 6 1-2 13, James Reese 7 5-6 19, Tromaine Mikal 1 0-0 2, Kejvoin Boye 1 1-2 4, Thomas Hollingsworth 1 0-1 2. Totals: 37 14-22 89
CHS (56):Tylen Turner 1 0-0 3, Shamire Jacobs 1 4-6 6, Jericho Murphy 1 2-2 5, Chad Thomas 2 1-2 6, Jonathon Leet 2 0-0 4, Jamar Byrd 0 1-2 1, Taylor Kelly 1 0-2 3, Tyrik Jones 0 2-2 2, D.J. Wilson 4 2-3 10, Jaylen Nelson 1 0-0 2, Devin Martin 1 0-0 3, Tyrone Kelly 1 0-2 2, Shyheem Edwards 3 2-2 8, Hyman Mathis 0 1-2 1. Totals: 18 15-25 56
Score by quarters:First: ACF, 29-11; Halftime: ACF, 56-21; Third: ACF, 71-31; Three-point goals: ACF 1 (Boye); CHS 4 (Turner, Thomas, Tay. Kelly, Martin)