LINDENWOLD – Midway through the first quarter, Lindenwold coach RJ Conley signaled for a time out. Suffice it to say he wasn't thrilled with how the game was unfolding.
Gloucester opened up by patiently passing the ball around the perimeter, working for the right shot. The strategy seemed to be working as Rasheer Fleming scored his team’s first seven points on a three-pointer and two buckets in the paint to give Gloucester a 7-3 lead.
Lindenwold needed to change the pace of the game.
“We had to get our energy up,” Conley explained. “It starts with our defense and getting out into transition. The press did that for us. We got a couple of turnovers so we want to score fast and get set in our press and get after them again.”
When Lindenwold’s energy is up, so is Eriq Campbell’s. The 6-foot, 2-inch junior thrives in an up-tempo game and Friday night he demonstrated why. He scored on a drive and hit a three-pointer as Lindenwold finished the first period, trailing by just two points, 12-10.
As it turns out Campbell was just getting started. With the game now more wide open, Campbell had room to operate. He scored eight points in each of the second and third quarters and all 13 of Lindenwold’s points in the fourth quarter. When he wasn’t scoring himself, he found open teammates and fed them the ball.
Lindenwold, which led by 16 after the third quarter, withstood a late Gloucester comeback to win, 55-46, and advance to Monday’s South Jersey Group 1 final at second-seeded Penns Grove.
Campbell agreed that playing an up-tempo style had a huge impact on the game.
“Changing the tempo around gave us a chance to stop their momentum,” Campbell said. “Once we were able to do that we were able to get some steals, make some shots and turn the momentum around.”
Lindenwold opened the second quarter with an 11-2 run led by the defense and Campbell. While the press didn’t result in a turnover every time, Gloucester didn’t look comfortable playing at that pace. Campbell had eight points during the run that resulted in a 21-14 Lindenwold lead.
“Eriq is the type of player that in order to be effective, he has to be aggressive,” Conley said. “He went out after that timeout and he was more aggressive. Ever since the playoffs started, it has been amazing to see him push through with his defense, his scoring and his ability to find his teammates.”
Gloucester sophomore Steven Light hit a couple of three-pointers to keep it close at halftime, 26-22, but Lindenwold kept the pressure on and that resulted in a 12-2 run to open the third quarter. Ibahim Dao hit a three-pointer and another bucket on a steal and a layup and Campbell had eight points during the run to put Lindenwold up 14 and finish the quarter up, 42-26.
“I think what it came down to was the quickness of their guards,” Gloucester coach Liam James said. “It was very difficult to keep in front of them and their ability to adjust to us extending the defense and throwing multiple zones at them. But I thought our kids started to find their way and that’s kind of how the season went for us too.”
Gloucester opened the fourth quarter with an 11-5 run and rolled out a press of its own that would eventually cut the deficit to 51-44, but Campbell made his last four foul shots to put the game away.
Fleming had 20 to lead Gloucester, while Light added 17. For Lindenwold, Dao added to 11 to help Campbell with the scoring load.
Gloucester 12 10 4 20 – 46
Lindenwold 10 16 16 11 – 55
Gloucester – Jason Pino 4, Rasheer Fleming 20, Liam Gorman 5, Steven Light 17.
Lindenwold – Julian Ngene 2, Ed Ngene 4, Ibahim Dao 11, Tadis Lampley 5, Eriq Campbell 33.