Every time the phone rings, each new e-mail she receives probably adds a little more stress to Von Duncan’s life.
The Lugoff-Elgin girls’ basketball coach has to be a little gun-shy, thinking bad news lurks around every corner. Last week, an auto accident left post player Robbi Qualls banged up. Then, Alexandria Nelson went down with a knee injury in a game last week and she is waiting on word as to whether it is a sprain or, an ACL injury, such as the one which befell teammate Jasmine Sexton earlier this year.
With a shrinking bench of just three available players, the Lady Demons were forced to change their strategy on both ends of the court against a Camden team which is without its leading scorer and Francis Marion signee Brooke Dixon.
The Lady Bulldogs used their advantage in depth to collect their first win in four tries this season, knocking off L-E, 63-35, inside the Dog Pound Friday night.
While Camden employed a suffocating full-court press to lead, 31-14, at halftime and 56-28 after three quarters, Duncan said her biggest issue is not having enough healthy players to give the starters longer breaks on the bench.
"Our problem, right now, is injuries," Duncan said. "We’ve been battling injuries, a lot. We’re getting banged up and bruised off the court, too. We don’t have many players to bring on the court."
Seeing L-E’s paucity in numbers, Camden head coach Natalie Jeffcoat said her team placed more emphasis on its full-court pressure to help put her team’s first win in four outings this season in the books.
"We really wanted to push the tempo," Jeffcoat said of her team’s style of play. "We’re hoping to get out and run and to get some easy baskets. There have been times this year where it felt like there was a lid on the basket and we haven’t been able to score. We were hoping that by pushing the tempo, we would be able to get out and get some easy shots."
Camden trailed, 4-2, in the game’s first four-plus minutes. But it was Janai Crim who came up big and helped the hostesses take control of this game. The sophomore guard scored all 10 first quarter points for CHS which took a six-point cushion into the second quarter.
With Dixon nursing an injury to her hand suffered in last Tuesday’s loss to Lancaster, Crim’s game-best 15 points helped soften the blow.
"We have to be more balanced," Jeffcoat said of her team’s offense. "Brooke has carried a big load for us this year and if we can have other people step up and put the ball in the basket then, down the road, that’s only going to help us."
When Crim was not scoring, senior Kentrell Salmond was helping with the offensive chores as she came off the bench to score 10, including a 3-ball which opened the second quarter. L-E used a layin from Kristian Wells to snap a scoring drought to make it 13-6 with 7:05 to play in the first half.
Getting steals and fast break chances thanks to its pressure defense, CHS went on a 9-0 run with Ariyan Massey contributing four points to boost the lead to 22-6 with just more than five minutes left to play in the first half.
L-E received a pair of Unique Patterson jumpers and a basket each from Alyssa Weems and Ebonie Ross to trim the deficit to 25-14 only to see CHS turn a pair of steal into layins from Crim, Jalathea McClendon and Massey to carry a commanding 31-14 lead into halftime.
With her team short on numbers, Duncan had the Lady Demons operate out of a zone defense as opposed to the man-to-man set which she favors.
"Our numbers are low so we have to reserve our energy and try to have (the zone scheme) work to our advantage," Duncan said.
Camden’s relentless pressure continued early in a third quarter which opened with a Patterson 10-foot jumper, reducing the deficit to 31-16.
A suffocating defense led to a 14-1 CHS surge and a 45-17 lead. Even when the Lady Bulldogs were missing shots, they had players in position under the boards as stickbacks from Audria Brooks and Salmond pushed the lead to 39-17. L-E helped CHS by making a layin at the wrong basket before short jumpers from Salmond and Massey hiked the lead to 28 points, at 45-17, with 4:27 left in the third quarter.
Camden led, 56-28, after three stanzas. Ross supplied the hot hand for the Lady Demons, scoring her team’s final eight points on a night in which she led the guests with 12 points. Camden used treys from McClendon and Salmond in the final two minutes to extend the lead to 28 points.
The Lady Bulldog’s longest advantage came after Treana Perry baskets sandwiched a Massey free throw as CHS went on top, 61-30, with five and a half minutes left in the contest.
After opening the season with two losses to Lancaster and one to Lakewood, Jeffcoat said a victory of any kind or style would have been and will be appreciated by her team.
"It was real important," she said of getting that first win of the season. "We’ve had a couple tough losses in a row, so it’s good to get that off your back and get back on the good side of things."
L-E (35): CHS (63): Score by quarters:
L-E (35):Ebonie Ross 5 2-2 12, Saige McLeod 0 3-4 3, Kristian Wells 2 0-5 4, Alyssa Weems 2 1-2 6, Unique Patterson 3 2-2 8, Abby Gary 0 0-1 0, Caitlyn Simon 1 0-2 2. Totals: 13 8-18 35
CHS (63):Audria Brooks 2 0-2 4, Janai Crim 6 3-4 15, Kentrell Salmond 4 0-0 10, Ariyan Massey 3 3-5 9, Dayajoi Belton 4 1-2 10, Jalathea McClendon 4 0-0 9, Treana Perry 2 2-4 6, Laniya Mingo 0 0-2 0. Totals: 25 9-17 63
Score by quarters:First: CHS, 10-4; Halftime: CHS, 31-14; Third: CHS, 56-28; Three-point goals: L-E 1 (Weems), CHS 4 (Salmond 2, Belton, McClendon)