Camden, NJ (January 13, 2022) For the past three years, Camden High has dominated the local scholastic hoops basketball scene. The Panthers had lost exactly one (1) game in three seasons. Since the start of this season, Camden had beaten nationally ranked Roselle Catholic (67-64) in a tough season opener in the new Camden High gymnasium, blown out the reigning Philly Catholic League Champions Archbishop Wood (73-41) on a neutral court and knocked off South Jersey contender Lenape (76-64) at home. On paper, these were three tough local opponents. Once they got their legs under them, the Panthers started to consistently open up BIG CANS of “whoop ass” on regional opponents.
Bishop Eustace fell by 19 (66-47), then they slaughtered Winslow Township by 54 and in their most recent game the Panthers decimated Eastern by 61 points. Camden High is by far the best and most dominant local team. Every local ranking has Camden sitting in the #1 spot and it has been that way for quite a while. Indeed, Camden entered their game tonight riding the crest of a 44 game winning streak.
Simply stated, since DJ Wagner arrived and Rick Brunson assumed the reins, none of the locals can fuck with Camden.
Well… almost none of them…
There was that one December night in 2019 at Cherry Hill East HS when Roman Catholic, featuring 2022 NBA lottery Pick Jalen Duren, current LSU Tiger Justice Williams, recent St. Joseph’s transfer Lynn Greer and current Cahillite star Xzayvier Brown came across the Ben Franklin bridge and knocked off the Panthers 70-59 in front of an overflowing, boisterous, raucous and decidedly Camden crowd.
Other than that one night, Brunson and the Panthers have run the table.
Indeed, the Panthers have been so dominant that it’s difficult to imagine a local high school basketball team beating them for the remainder of this year and through next year. Unquestionably, Camden High is head and shoulders above the local competition.
The problem is… Montverde ain’t from ‘round here…
Those boys are different.
While Camden has at least 8 eight Division 1 basketball prospects, including 2 high major targets (Wagner and Aaron Bradshaw), Montverde’s roster is filled with high major prospects top to bottom.
Take a moment and think about the fact that Kwame Evans, ESPN #3 in the class of 2023, and Derek Queen, ESPN #2 in the class of 2024, do NOT start and play sparingly for this Montverde team.
Dariq Whitehead, ESPN #5 in the Class of 2022 (Duke Commit) is the leader of this talented bunch. He finished with an exhilarating 18 points in front of about 30 of his supporters who drove down from Newark to see his matchup with Wagner, ESPN #1 in the class of 2023. Whitehead did not disappoint… He dunked, made threes and even did a little Globetrotter inspired behind the back euro-step layup.
Dillon Mitchell, ESPN #18 in the Class of 2022 (Texas Commit) chipped in with 13 points. For Camden, Aaron Bradshaw, ESPN #22 in the Class of 2023, showed why he is so highly ranked. He was the lone Panther able to match the length and explosiveness of Montverde. He was aggressive attacking the basket and made several spectacular blocks. Bradshaw led Camden with 17 points and Wagner chipped in 4.
Those of us of a certain age will remember the tremendous anticipation accompanying the build up to an early Mike Tyson defense of his heavyweight title. That’s what this week was like… How would Camden fare against national competition? Some openly wondered if Montverde could hang with the Panthers.
Then… the bell rung… And, Montverde landed a hard right cross squarely on Camden’s jaw… For all intents and purposes, the fight was over in the first round.
Montverde jumped out to a quick 14-2 lead with 5 thunderous dunks. By the end of the first quarter, the score was 22-4 Montverde.
Camden needed a standing 8 count. For the uninitiated, A standing eight count, also known as a protection count, is a boxing judgment call made by a referee during a bout. When invoked, the referee stops the action and counts to eight. … Standing eight counts by the referee are scored the same as a knockdown, whether the boxer was knocked down or not…
1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… 7… 8… Okay… Let me wipe your gloves…
Eventually, Brunson went into a 2-3 zone and forced Montverde to shoot from the perimeter. This lessened the frequency of the aggravated assaults on the rim.
As the game progressed through the second, third and fourth quarters, Brunson was essentially a “cut man.” He liberally applied grease to his players eye area, ears and forehead to prevent Montverde’s leather boxing gloves from tearing and cutting the skin. When it looked like their eyes were getting puffy, Brunson applied an ice-cold steel bar to the skin to prevent swelling. The Camden coaches used a cotton swab to push clotting powder into the cut that did appear. In this way, they were able to stop further bleeding that might have deterred their player’s attention and focus during the game.
Camden lost a decisive unanimous decision. They did not win a round… 120-108 on all three cards…
But Camden did live to fight another day… Four of their next seven games are against more teams that ain’t from ‘round here. Hopefully, tonight’s loss will serve an learning opportunity. Camden may want to study that Floyd Mayweather shoulder roll tomorrow. Money Mayweather always protects his chin AND gets that bag.