BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP - The Camden High School boys basketball team played for its proud tradition Saturday night.
The Panthers seemed to grab every rebound and loose ball and beat St. Augustine Prep 65-55 in an Olympic-Cape Challenge game.
The loss prevented St. Augustine Prep coach Paul Rodio from becoming the winningest coach in South Jersey history. Rodio and former Camden coach Clarence Turner are tied with 775 wins.
The current Camden players did not want to see Rodio break the record against the program that Turner made one of the most renowned in the state. Former Camden standout Kevin Walls, who played for Turner, gave the Panthers a pregame speech.
"We did it for coach Turner," said Camden center Amir Maddred (15 points, five rebounds). "All we heard the whole week was that we had to do this for coach Turner and we came out and did it."
St. Augustine's play seemed as listless as Camden's was energetic. The Hermits struggled to score, making 17-of-47 shots from the field (36 percent) and 2-of-17 (12 percent) on 3-point attempts.
"They didn't want to lose," Rodio said. "We looked listless, flat. We were soft. They pushed us around, and they did whatever they wanted to do. I don't know if it was us being off two spots or them, being up two steps. Bottom line is we weren't there and they were better than us."
The Olympic-Cape Challenge is a showcase event that pits Cape-Atlantic League teams against their Olympic Conference counterparts. Camden's victory gave the Olympic a 5-0 edge in Saturday's games. The showcase event continues today at St. Augustine.
The Hermits (17-3) are No. 3 in The Press Elite 11. Fans packed St. Augustine's gym to watch Rodio break Turner's record. Camden had other ideas.
The Panthers played like a vintage Turner team. Turner, who now lives in Chicago, led Camden to seven state titles and 22 South Jersey championships. Under him, the Panthers were famed for outrebounding and outworking opponents.
Camden (12-7) dominated the boards Saturday. The Panthers outrebounded St. Augustine 46-30. Camden grabbed 24 offensive rebounds for 19 second-chance points compared to just six points for St. Augustine.
Camden guard Tavaris Headen penetrated through the St. Augustine defense to create shots for himself and teammates. He finished with 25 points, four assists and five steals.
Still, the Hermits challenged Camden in the third quarter.
St. Augustine went on an 8-0 run to tie the score with 4 minutes, 23 seconds left in the third. Camden responded with a 5-0 run to regain the lead as Maddred scored three points during that stretch.
St. Augustine then pulled to within two with 1:30 left in the quarter. Camden responded again with this time with an 8-0 run. Headen's 3-point shot put the Panthers up 10 with 40.6 seconds in the quarter. St. Augustine never threatened again.
"It looked like they wanted it more than us," Rodio said.
Rodio's next chance to break the record will come Monday when the Hermits host Lower Cape May Regional, who hasn't won a game this season.
Camden coach Cetshwayo Byrd knows Rodio will inevitably break Turner's record. He and the rest of the Panthers just didn't want it to be Saturday night.
"Back in the day, the kids played with so much pride," Byrd said. "That's what coach Turner got out of the kids. Coach Turner means lot to Camden. I stressed that to the kids, and I think it woke something up in them. I was happy with the effort."
That's because it was a prototypical Camden effort.
Contact Michael McGarry:
Camden 7 16 19 23 - 65
St. Augustine 12 6 16 21 - 55
CAM - Headen 9 5-7 25, Hawkins 2 5-01 9, R. Hinson 1 0-4 2, Holloway 4 2-4 10, A. Maddred 4 7-10 15, J. Maddred1 0-0 2, D. Hinson 1 0-0 2. Totals 22 19-35 65
SA - Greenman 5 2-2 14, Seward 1 7-10 9, Sullivan 3 8-11 14, Gatto 3 1-2 7, Rossell 1 0-0 2, Nelson 2 0-0 4, Warren 1 0-0 2, Vasturia 1 1-2 3. Totals 17 19-27 55
3-pointers - CAM. Headen (2); SA. Greenman (2)
Records - Camden 12-7; St. Augustine 17-3