Gone are the hockey-like line changes. So, too, are extended minutes on the court for most of the non-starters on the Camden boys basketball team which has gone to a more traditional substitution pattern under interim head coach Ron McKie Jr.
What has not changed, unfortunately, are struggles on both ends of the floor.
Put in a quick 12-0 hole in the first three minutes of play, the Bulldogs dropped their fifth straight game in a 60-48 defeat at the hands of visiting Richland Northeast in Friday’s Region 4-AAA contest played on the Michael G. Culp Court.
The loss gave the Dogs a 3-10 overall mark and an 0-4 conference ledger.
McKie whose started the season by wanting his team to push the ball up the floor, play full-court pressure defense on opponents and try to get the score into the 80s, said he needed to pull back the reins and settle with a more normal rotation. On Friday, CHS had seven to eight players receiving a majority of the minutes.
"My thinking behind that," McKie said of slowing things down on both sides of the ball, "we’re scoring a lot but they’re also getting a lot of layups. To me, it just seemed like it didn’t click.
"I know it’s hard to switch up. Dad’s (Ron McKie Sr., who is taking a season away from coaching) been here 12 or 13 years running the same thing; I can’t expect them to get it just like that. I figured I would go to the match-up (zone) and it would cut down on the foul and stupid turnovers because we’re slowing it down a little bit, and it will take away the layups. Well, I was wrong.
"We still have the same amount of turnovers and we still give up easy inside baskets."
While the visiting Cavaliers were able to score 14 points from deep inside the paint area, they did the majority of their damage from beyond the 3-point arc with junior guard Nygil Brown burying four treys for 12 of his 16 points which tied CHS junior guard Taylor Kelly for game scoring honors. In all, the guests canned 10 shots from distance for 30 of their 62 points.
While the Cavs were hot from long range, the presence of 6-foot-7 sophomore center DeShawn Thomas in the paint helped take away Camden’s inside game. The Dogs did not get a shot off from the field until the 4:43 mark of the first quarter. By then, RNE had jumped to a 12-0 lead while having blocked five shots in the process.
Camden’s first points were supplied by Kelly on a drive for a pair with 4:35 left in the first quarter. RNE, though, controlled the pace of play and led, 18-7 after the first eight minutes.
When you have a team struggling on offense like Camden, not starting well is hardly a good sign. "We’re not good enough to go down 12-0 and try to come back," McKie said. "After we settled down, though, we used some pump fakes, which got them in the air; we drove the ball and kicked it out inside of taking it at (Thomas.)"
Getting jumpers from freshman Jericho Murphy and senior Tyrik Jones to open the second stanza, the Bulldogs closed the gap to 18-11. But RNE would open up a 31-15 lead after James Fuller-Davis sank three consecutive 3-point jumpers with the third of those coming at the 3:52 marker of the second quarter.
The Kelly brothers, Taylor and the 6-foot-4 Tyrone, tried to keep the hosts close as they combined to score nine of Camden’s final 11 points in a first half which ended with RNE heading to the locker room with a 39-26 advantage.
CHS was able to hang around in the first 16 minutes thanks to hitting 10 of its 14 free throws on a night in which the hosts were 16-for-22 from the charity stripe. While 16 made free throws in the game was nice, there was another number 16 which bothered McKie.
"We had 16 turnovers in the first half and you can’t do that. You can’t have 16 turnovers when they don’t even press," he said. "Sometimes, they just put their hand out there and we threw it to them.
Taking a page out of RNE’s playbook, Camden starting finding a rhythm from beyond the arc in the third quarter which opened with senior D.J. Wilson going inside for a basket before junior teammate Jaylen Nelson knocked down a trey to make it a 39-31 game. The Cavs’ Breland Powe answered Nelson’s three with one of his own to put the lead back into double figures at 42-31 with 3:25 to go in the third.
Getting a stickback from Wilson, a trey from 5-foot-2 point guard Devin Martin and a Taylor Kelly 3-ball, the Dogs climbed into with 44-39 and had the ball on a steal under their own basket only to turn the ball over to the Cavs who used a free throw in the closing 41 seconds of the third to take a 45-39 lead into the fourth quarter.
Martin was given the start at point guard by McKie who said he expects the heady freshman to get more time on the floor.
"Devin did what I want a point guard to do," McKie said of Martin who scored a career-high seven points in the loss. "I want him to get the ball and, if he gets it from the right side, he can swing it to the left. He gets into the lane … he needs to know he’s the littlest guy out there and he did … and he either kicked it out or, he threw a bounce pass.
"The kids have to know that if you do that, you’re going to play. Devin did that and he got to play. He’s been hurt with a nagging groin injury but he’s getting healthier and he’s going to see more playing time."
Using a 3-ball and a fast break layin from Brown to open the fourth quarter, RNE went on top, 50-39. Camden responded with six straight free throws, including four in a row from Martin and two from Taylor Kelly, to close the gap to a manageable 50-45 with 4:11 to play. In less than three minutes, however, the Cavs went on a 6-0 run with Brown’s trey at the 1:26 marker all but putting this one out of reach at 56-45.
"Every game, except for the A.C. Flora game," McKie said of his team’s staying with people, "we seem to get right there. We get down and then, we claw our way back up. My kids don’t quit. They might turn the ball over a lot and give up easy baskets but they don’t quit."
RNE (62): CHS (48): Score by quarters:
RNE (62):Markus Fleming 2 0-0 4, Nigel Chaney 2 0-0 5, Marquise Riley 1 1-2 3, Jamie Dickey 1 1-1 3, Nygil Brown 6 0-0 16, Tashawn Brockington 2 0-0 4, James Fuller-Davis 3 3-4 12, DeShawn Thomas 2 0-0 4, Demarius Holliday 1 0-1 2, Breland Powe 2 2-2 8, Timothy Cheeseboro 0 1-2 1. Totals: 22 8-12 62
CHS (48):Taylor Kelly 5 5-8 16, Tyrone Kelly 0 5-6 6, Hyman Mathis 1 0-0 2, Jericho Murphy 1 0-0 2, Tyrik Jones 1 0-0 2, Shyheem Edwards 1 0-0 2, Shamire Jacobs 0 2-2 2, D.J. Wilson 2 0-2 4, Jaylen Nelson 2 0-0 6, Devin Martin 1 4-4 7. Totals: 14 16-22 48
Score by quarters:First RNE, 18-7; Halftime: RNE, 39-26; Third: RNE, 45-39; Three-point goals: RNE 10 (Brown 4, Fuller-Davis 3, Powe 2, Chaney), CHS 4 (Nelson 2, Tay. Kelly, Martin)