Naturally, Camden’s 65-61 victory on Friday night was hard, too. The team that rode the bus home was aching.
Camden (16-7) led, 13-4, with 3:30 remaining in the first quarter. The Red Devils’ junior guard, J.D. Payne, scored 18 points in the first half, at which point Clinton led, 29-24. Camden head coach Ron McKie went to a box-and-one to stop Payne. It worked. Payne didn’t score in the second half, but the Red Devils still led, 38-29, with 1:38 remaining in the third quarter, and 46-38 with 5:08 remaining in the fourth.
“We tried to run some stuff to free him up,” Clinton head coach Eddie Romines said, “but, ultimately, when the other team does that, someone else has to step up. We did sometimes. Sometimes we didn’t.”
The final minute of regulation was a nightmare. With 1:05 on the clock, Clinton (15-8) had a five-point lead (55-50) and the ball. A turnover and a three-pointer pulled the Bulldogs to within two. A wild pass with 45.3 seconds left, and another Camden bucket tied the game. The Red Devils were fortunate to get the game into overtime at 55-55.
Fouls hurt Clinton. Three pointers – Camden hit nine – hurt Clinton. Red Devil fouls and Camden free throws hurt Clinton.
“I don’t care if it gets me in trouble or not,” Romines said. “The referees didn’t beat us, but the way the game was officiated in the second half hurt us badly.”
It was two minutes into the extra period before Clinton got off a shot. The Bulldogs’ lead reached seven (65-58) before Clinton chipped away at it one final time.
“We still should’ve won the ballgame,” Romines said. “When you’re up five with a minute left, you should win.”
Zay Hurley scored 12 points, and Jahleed Cook and Zack James each added eight.
Cam Jefferson bombed five three-pointers and led the Bulldogs with 21 points. Devin Martin scored 16 and Donovan Belton 15. Jericho Murphy added nine.
Clinton ended its playoff run in the second round after advancing to the upstate finals a year earlier.
CLINTON (61): Payne 18, Boyd 4, Cook 8, Priestley 2, Bennett 7, James 8, Hurley 12, Richardson 2. Three-pointers: Payne 2, Cook, Bennett. Field goals: 26-57 (.456). Free throws: 5-8 (.625). Rebounds: 38. Turnovers: 22.
CAMDEN (65): Belton 15, Jefferson 21, Martin 16, Murphy 9, Pate 1, Dubose 2, Green 2. Three-pointers: Jefferson 5, Belton 2, Martin, Murphy. Field goals: 20-62 (.323). Free throws: 17-25 (.680). Rebounds: 39. Turnovers: 17.