An unconventional offense has led the Camden boys’ basketball team to trying to undo everything which they have been taught to do since they first started playing the game.
In a five-in, five-out changing of the line rotation, interim Bulldogs’ head coach Ron McKie Jr. has stressed the importance of his team’s shooters needing to drop back on defense rather than follow up their shot to prevent run outs on the other end of the floor.
The Dogs are still adjusting to that concept. On Tuesday, it led to visiting Lakewood getting numerous fast break baskets as the Gators left the Dog Pound with a 73-64 victory to earn a split of the season series between the two sides. The loss dropped Camden to 2-3 heading into tonight’s game at Lugoff-Elgin.
The Gators scored 52 of their points from inside the paint area on a night in which they rolled in 15 layups out of their 60 points from the field. The chief problem for the hosts was not having anyone back on the defensive end on too many occasions as LHS had many an uncontested drive to the bucket.
McKie admitted that his team’s unorthodox offense has led to some breakdowns on both ends of the floor.
"You shoot. You rotate," McKie said of his offensive philosophy. "You don’t shoot and follow your shot. The kids don’t seem to have grasped that, yet."
On at least three occasions, Lakewood played five-on-four, keeping a player near half-court to "cherry-pick" on the other side of the floor.
The abundance of point-blank looks at the basket helped the visitors grab a 23-20 lead in the opening minute of the second quarter and not look back before a sedate crowd which was a 180-degree turn from last Friday’s raucous environment in an 88-84 loss to L-E.
"We were dead. I guess when you go from that huge crowd from the L-E game last Friday to tonight, that’s what happens," McKie said "There was no energy … we had some energy in the second half but we were too far behind."
The Gators stretched their 54-40 lead after three quarters to 21 points twice in the final stanza, the second of those coming when Andre Washington roll home a layin with 4:42 left to make it 66-45. Camden responded with a 9-0 run touched off by five straight points from junior guard Jaylen Nelson. A free throw from junior center Tyrone Kelly, who led CHS with 14 points, closed the gap to 66-54 with 3:06 showing on the game clock.
Lakewood then went on a 7-2 run to go on top, 73-56 with 66 ticks left in the game clock following a Raekwon Cuspert jumper.
Camden closed with a flourish, scoring the final eight points of the game against the wearying Gators with Kelly scoring five of those points while Shamire Jacobs added a trio on a conventional 3-point play.
McKie said he was encouraged by the way his team closed out the contest. He was corrected in his comment when asked how many points behind his team were down the stretch.
"I was proud of the kids for coming back," said the first-year head coach. "What were we down? Sixteen ... twenty-one?
"To only lose by nine proves to them that if they play the way I want them to play and like we practice, that we can be decent. But when you just half it and go through the motions, you’re going to get your brains beat in.
"Hat’s off to Lakewood, they had a good game plan. They broke our press and put someone in the short corner. We didn’t step up and take a charge."
Playing at less than full-strength with two starters sitting out the first quarter for disciplinary reasons while having one injured and two sick players, McKie could not make wholesale substitutions in the first quarter.
The opening stanza saw CHS jump to an 8-6 lead after a trey from Jamar Byrd and a traditional 3-point play from freshman Jericho Murphy. Going strong to the hole, LHS took a 16-13 lead only to see that go by the boards, temporarily, when Shyheem Edwards drained a 3-ball to make it 17-16 with 1:26 to play in a first eight minutes when ended with the visitors leading, 21-19, after Jarvis Johnson scored on a pair of free throws before knocking down an 18-foot jumper which just beat the buzzer.
LHS took control of this one for keeps after Camden went ice cold in not making a shot from the field in the closing 6:21 of a first half which ended with the Gators receiving five points from Johnson in a closing 9-0 run in the final three minutes before the break.
Camden did not help its cause on the offensive end by committing many a turnover; too many of the unforced variety, McKie said. McKie said the purpose of his team’s game plan is to take the opponent out of its comfort zone as opposed to the Dogs playing a helter-skelter game.
"We made stupid passes," he said. "Good Lord, a couple times, we would catch, turn and throw a pass; we didn’t even look. We just blindly threw it. One time, (a pass) hit a Lakewood player in the face and he must have said, ‘What the heck is this? Thank you.’
"We want them to play fast and to make mistakes. We don’t want to play fast and make mistakes."
The Dogs would trim the deficit under double digits three times in the third quarter with a D.J. Wilson stickback and a Hyman Mathis free throw chopping the Gator lead to 48-40 with 1:54 to play in the third. The Gators would carry a comfy 54-40 advantage into the fourth quarter with a trio of layups before Daquan Tindel scored the guests’ first three baskets of the fourth quarter as the lead swelled to 60-40 with just less than seven minutes to play.
The injuries, illness and disciplinary measures left Camden short-handed on this night as, early on, McKie subbed in three players at a time rather than five. He said he hopes to return to his original plan of attack this evening.
"I want to get back to full health because I like the line shifts; it wears an opponent out," he said. "We wore them out in the second half where we had three fouls as opposed to 13 in the first half. Lakewood was gasping for air which allowed us to make that run. It has to be closer, though, when we make that run instead of being down 21."
Camden placed 10 players in the scoring column. After Kelly, Tylen Turner had 13 points while Nelson had nine.
What disappointed McKie most on this night was that his team was unable to get the pace of play to where he wants it. If fans walks out of the gym without needing to schedule an appointment with a chiropractor, he said, his team was not playing fast enough.
"I want the people in the stands to walk out of the gym with a neck injury. I want whiplash," he said. "We’re holding back. They still haven’t bought in.
"With our athletic ability and with how we run up and down the floor, you would think that kids would love this. But they have 13 years of take one shot and fall back into a zone. It’s hard to break that in four or five weeks of practice."
LHS (73): CHS (64): Score by quarters:
LHS (73):Ray Davis 3 0-0 6, Jalen White 1 0-0 2, Daquan Tindel 8 0-0 16, Robert Grant 2 0-0 4, Brandon Gholson 2 4-6 8, Raekwon Cuspert 2 0-0 4, Jarvis Johnson 1 7-9 9, Andre Washington 5 1-1 11, Jaylan Wactor 1 0-0 2, Jerrel Kelly 2 0-0 4, Tyshawn Johnson 2 0-0 4, Tyrell Still 1 1-2 3. Totals: 30 13-18 73
CHS (64):Jaylen Nelson 3 3-7 9, Tylen Turner 5 0-0 13, Jamar Byrd 2 0-0 5, Tyrone Kelly 5 4-8 14, Jericho Murphy 0 4-6 4, Shyheem Edwards 1 1-2 4, D.J. Wilson 3 0-0 6, Hyman Mathis 1 1-4 3, Taylor Kelly 1 1-1 3, Shamire Jacobs 1 1-1 3. Totals: 22 15-30 64
Score by quarters:First: LHS, 21-19; Halftime: LHS, 38-26; Third: LHS, 54-40; Three-point goals: LHS none; CHS 5 (Turner 3, Byrd, Edwards)