Wanting to conserve some energy in a breakneck-paced scheme, Camden High interim head basketball coach Ron McKie Jr. went to a zone defense Friday night, as opposed to the constant man-to-man pressure which the first-year Bulldog boss favors.
Camden dropped back into a 2-3 set which was all well and good until Lugoff-Elgin freshmen Bradwin Salmond and Kevon Roberson got open look after open look in raining down three-point baskets in the latter stages of the third and the start of the fourth quarters.
With Salmond knocking down three shots from distance and Roberson adding another, the hosts blew open what was a 43-41 lead with a 27-15 spurt which ignited an 85-69 L-E victory on Friday inside the Demons Den. The win gave the Demons (4-3) a sweep of the two-game series with their cross-river rivals who fell to 2-4 on the season and lost their third consecutive game in the pre-Christmas finale for both sides.
Camden center D.J. Wilson became sick in the locker room and was sent home before the game. His absence, along with three other players who did not suit up due to either illness or injury, forced McKie to try and slow the game down against an L-E team which hit just two 3-point shots in an 88-84 victory in Camden one week earlier.
"I tried something different tonight," McKie said. "I thought that we should try to extend the periods so, I tried a 2-3. It doesn’t matter which defense we’re in, we give up layups. Hat’s off to them, though. How many threes did they make?’"
When told six, including four from Salmond and two from Roberson, McKie just shook his head.
"Good Lord, man, that 33 (Salmond) for them was just knocking them down," McKie said. "You’re in a zone and you want them to shoot and, they shot … they shot well."
When Camden went to the zone package, it caught L-E head coach Garrett Knight a little off-guard. The second-year Demons’ boss, who roomed in college for a time with McKie, said he did not expect the Bulldogs to play anything but man-to-man defense.
"I was expecting them to press us the whole game," Knight said.
"I told our guys that we won the turnover battle (43-33) last Friday night and that we had to win it again tonight. Hat’s off to Bradwin Salmond and Kevon (Roberson) for knocking down the 3-pointers when we needed them."
Roberson, a 5-10 guard, tied Camden junior guard Jaylen Nelson for game scoring honors with a 17-point evening. Salmond, a 6-foot -1 forward, added 14 points thanks in large part to his burying three consecutive treys in three minutes, spanning two quarters. Two nights earlier, in a 22-point loss at Brookland-Cayce, L-E was 1-for-14 on its 3-point attempts.
While not played at the same feverish pace as the first meeting between the two sides, the Dogs led, 39-38, when junior guard Taylor Kelly sank one of the guests’ eight 3-pointers with 5:38 left in the third quarter. That would prove to be the final time Camden held the edge in this game.
Using a traditional 3-point play from sophomore Robert Samuel, L-E went on top for keeps at 41-39 while touching off a game-deciding 13-2 surge which included a pair of layins --- off steals --- from senior guard Daniel Quattlebaum, and two baskets from junior guard Aldreacio Wells, the second of which came on L-E’s fifth try at the basket in one possession, which padded the lead to 51-41 with 2:49 left in the third.
Camden tried to climb back into the thick of things with Nelson going outside the arch to nail a 3. But the 1-2 shooting punch of Salmond and Roberson were too much. It was Roberson going long first, with two minutes to go in the third, before Salmond hit two 3s in the final 70 seconds of a third quarter which ended with L-E outscoring CHS, 26-16, to carry a 60-49 advantage into the final stanza.
McKie said his team’s inability to slow the Demons down during the stretch may well be the last time an opponent sees Camden in a zone defense. He said from here on out, it will be 94-foot, man-to-man defensive pressure.
"This just proved to me that if we’re going to get beat this bad," he said, "that I’m going to do it my way. I’m not doing what everybody else wants. I’m glad the kids got a taste of this … we’re going to do it my way, not like this."
CHS used a Nelson layin to close the gap to single digits, one last time, at 60-51 in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter. Any hopes the Bulldogs had of getting closer were dashed with 3-balls from Salmond and then, Roberson with Roberson capping an 8-0 flurry with a layin to make it 68-51 with six minutes left in the contest.
Nelson tried to get the guests back into this one with consecutive baskets in a 15-second span to cut the margin to 70-60 with 4:34 to go. The Demons were again resilient, getting a pair of free throws from freshman Wyatt Campbell, a Roberson layin and then, a fast-break slam from Wells to put this one out of reach at 76-60 with 3:28 showing on the game clock.
Knight said the Camden defensive pressure his team faced Friday night was not the same as a week earlier. Given the flu bug which has hit both teams, he thought the pace of play might not be as harried.
"We talked before the game and I had some kids who were coming back from sickness who didn’t play tonight and he had some kids who were sick," Knight said as to each team being at less than 100 percent. "It seemed like they couldn’t get into a rhythm running and they had to sit back. We just made some big shots when we had to."
With 13 players available, McKie had to alter his usual method of playing three separate lines for a few minutes --- if not, seconds --- each.
It was not the Dogs’ rotation which got them off to a slow start as much as it was their five quick turnovers in the opening four minutes of play as L-E used four points each from Samuel and Wells to grab the early 9-2 lead. Camden would regroup and used treys from Nelson and then Kelly’s 30-foot runner which beat the buzzer to even things at 15 at the end of the first quarter of play.
The lead see-sawed, with the score being knotted on six occasions in the second quarter, as the two sides went into counter-punch mode. A pair of Kelly free throws was followed by a Roberson drive which evened things at 31 with 52 seconds left before the break. Camden’s Tylen Turner would put back a missed shot with a half-minute to play in the half to give the Dogs a 33-31 edge.
L-E, though, used a Roberson free throw with 18 ticks left in the first half clock before Samuel knocked down a five-foot runner at the buzzer to send the Demons into the locker room with a 34-33 lead.
Neither team was able to fully take advantage of their free throw chances with CHS hitting half its 18 tries while the Demons were five of 10 from the stripe.
Knowing Camden was unable to have wholesale substitutions, Knight said he wanted to try and wear the Bulldogs down in the first half.
"We were trying to push it a little more than we did," he said. "They were doing a good job of breaking our press and getting the ball to the middle. I told our kids that we weren’t going to stop doing what we were doing. We ended up getting a couple big stops in the second half."
Following the loss, McKie said he will go back to pressing full court, subbing five-for-five at 40-second intervals and scrapping the zone defense.
"We didn’t get beat this bad giving up that many layups; I just realized that," he said in referring to the previous week’s four-point loss to L-E. "It’s playing the 2-3 zone and keeping people that want to stay in longer. I hope everybody saw that tonight."
As he conducted his post-game interview with his young daughter on his shoulders, Knight was much more relaxed than he was a week earlier after a frantic finish in Camden.
"This is great for us going into the Christmas break," said Knight whose team will play in a tournament at North Central on Dec. 29-30. "I hope these guys know that if we play like this every night that, maybe, we can compete in our region."
CHS (69): L-E (85): Score by quarters:
CHS (69):Taylor Kelly 3 3-5 11, Shamire Jacobs 4 4-7 14, Tylen Turner 1 1-2 3, Chad Thomas 2 0-0 2 5, Jaylen Nelson 6 3-5 17, Jonathan Leet 1 0-0 2, Jericho Murphy 1 0-0 2, Tyrone Kelly 1 3-4 5, Shyheem Edwards 1 0-0 3, Hyman Mathis 1 0-0 2. Totals: 21 19-33 69
L-E (85):Aldreacio Wells 4 2-2 10, Robert Samuel 6 1-1 13, Daniel Quattlebaum 5 1-4 11, Bradwin Salmond 5 0-3 14, Brady Brown 2 0-1 4, Elliott Campbell 4 2-3 10, Kevon Roberson 7 1-2 17, Wyatt Campbell 0 2-2 2, Tyrese Elm 0 2-2 2, Josh Byrd 1 0-0 2. Totals: 34 12-20 85
Score by quarters:First: 15-15; Halftime: L-E, 34-33; Third: L-E, 60-49; Three-point goals: CHS 8 (Tay. Kelly 2, Jacobs 2, Nelson 2, Thomas, Edwards); L-E 6 (Salmond 4, Roberson 2)