HADDONFIELD – It was another teaching moment for Camden High School basketball coach Vic Carstarphen so the door to the classroom, serving as the Panthers’ locker room, remained closed for little longer than usual.
Camden, which has not shied away from playing a challenging non-conference schedule, had a 24-17 halftime lead over the Haverford School from Pennsylvania. The Fords, who came into this Paul VI Winter Classic matchup unbeaten at 23-0, were the latest test for the Panthers.
It took a little over a minute for Haverford, or more precisely Jameer Nelson Jr., to erase that lead. Nelson, the son of the former St. Joseph University and NBA great, Jameer Nelson Sr., drove for a layup, sank two free throws and drained a long three-pointer, to tie the game and force a Camden timeout.
From that point, the game see-sawed back and forth with Camden twice taking three points leads in the fourth quarter only to see the Fords score the game’s final six points to register a 51-46 victory.
“They’re a good team,” Carstarphen said. “You had to figure they were going to make a run. They came out with a lot of aggressiveness and attacked the basket. We had six possessions to start the second half and I think we had five turnovers. You can’t give a good team that many opportunities. They were locked in for 32 minutes. We have to understand to beat good teams that’s how we have to play.”
The Panthers did just that in the first 16 minutes of the game. They passed the ball well, patiently looking for the best shot. If the ball went into the post and the shot wasn’t there, it was passed back out and they started over. They led by one, 11-10, after the first quarter and outscored the Fords, 13-7, in the second quarter with a pair of sophomores, Jerome Brewer (six on two 3’s) and Taquon Woodley (four) combining for 10 of the points.
It was a good half for the Panthers.
“If there is one thing we can take out of this is that was probably the best ball movement we’ve had in the first half this year,” Carstarphen said. “But you have to play two halves. They (Haverford) didn’t stop playing. That’s what we have to do.
“I know it’s a cliché but games like this build character. We have to learn from this. If you can’t learn from this and get better we’re not going to be able to beat good teams in the playoffs. We’re a good team. We just have to believe we’re a good team.”
Senior lead guard Ethan Tarte, who rolled his ankle driving to the basket in the first half but was only on the bench for a brief period, echoed his coach’s thoughts on what the Panthers need to do.
“We have to play four quarters,” Tarte said. “We’ve had games where we played two quarter or three quarters, but not the whole game. We have to stay together as a team in this type of game.
“They were a physical team and we’re going to face more teams like that. Playing a game like this shows us what we’re going have to do.”
Camden had a couple of opportunities to tie or take the lead in the closing seconds but couldn’t get a shot to fall. The Fords Christian Ray, a 6-6 senior guard, who led all scorers with 19 points and set a new Haverford School career scoring record with 1,578 points, made three of four foul shots to ice the game.
For the Panthers, now 12-6 and were led by Deuce Chestnut with 12, there is no time to rest. On Sunday, they play Newark East Side (16-4).
It'll be another chance to learn and get better.
Haverford School 51, Camden 46
Haverford School 10 7 17 17 – 51
Camden 11 13 11 11 – 46
THS – Gavin Burke 0, Jameer Nelson Jr. 13, Christian Ray 19, Asim Richards 9, Jameel Brown 10.
Camden – Deuce Chestnut 12, El Khana Hidalgo 3, Jerome Brewer 11, Ethan Tarte 7, Lance Ware 5, Taquon Woodley 8.