Phil Anastasia: Camden not satisfied with its play - yet

Bishop Eustace's Carson Puriefoy scoops up a loose ball as Camden's Kadir Walker defends.
Bishop Eustace's Carson Puriefoy scoops up a loose ball as Camden's Kadir Walker defends. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 22, 2012

One way to measure a team's development is by what happens before the final buzzer.

Another is by what happens after.

Camden showed more signs of growth during 32 minutes on the court Tuesday night against Bishop Eustace, a savvy, skilled, senior-laden team that is No. 2 in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings.

But perhaps a better gauge of the Panthers' progress from Day 1 of the season to the brink of the South Jersey Group 3 tournament - in which they will be a tough, tough out - was the scene after the Crusaders escaped Clarence Turner Gymnasium with a 75-66 victory.

Happy teams don't hold 30-minute, postgame meetings.

Satisfied squads don't clear the air.

"We've got to keep pushing," Camden coach Cetshwayo Byrd said.

There was a time, not so long ago, when Camden might have been satisfied to play a competitive game against an opponent such as Bishop Eustace.

There was a time, not so long ago, when the Panthers might have seen the outcome as a moral victory.

Those days are gone. These guys thought they were going to win, and they were angry and disappointed when they fell short.

"I have to remind myself that this isn't going to happen overnight," Byrd said. "We've come so far. But here is it, the end of the season, and we're still getting these guys to play hard at both ends, to play together. It gets frustrating sometimes."

Camden (14-11) remains a work in progress. The Panthers have a new coaching staff this season. Byrd is their third head coach in the last 14 months.

Their starting backcourt features a freshman (Rasool Hinson) and a sophomore (Tavaris Headen). Their center is a junior (Amir Maddred) who became eligible in February and saw limited varsity time at Trenton Catholic last season.

But these guys have come a long way. A team that was 2-5 on Jan. 3 now looms as a serious contender to win the South Jersey Group 3 title, even as a No. 7 seed.

"We think we can go far in the playoffs," said senior forward Ajwan "Scooter" Leaming, who led the Panthers on Tuesday night with 24 points.

This team has elements. The 6-foot-5 Leaming and 6-5 senior forward Thomas Harper (10 points) are skilled offensive players, while the 6-7 Maddred (13 points, seven rebounds) is a force in the paint.

That's a lengthy front line, and all three of those guys can shoot from distance. They also can make free throws, as they were a combined 18 for 22 against Eustace.

Camden's big problem against Eustace was trying to contain Crusaders senior point guard Carson Puriefoy, who scored 33 points with five assists.

Still, this was a good game.

It wasn't exactly old times, but there was an echo in the air.

"We fought," Byrd said. "We fought right to the end. We just made too many mistakes."

Bishop Eustace 14 23 16 22 – 75

Camden 14 13 13 26 – 66

BE: Carson Puriefoy 33, Sho DaSilva 20, Dexter Harris 5, Trevor Norton 11, Ry'n Bland 4, Scott Hyland 2.

C: Amir Maddred 13, Thomas Harper 10, Ajwan Leaming 24, Tavaris Headen 10, Rasool Hinson 5, Josh Devine 3, Jahrome Randall 1.

Phil Anastasia: ONLINE EXTRA

Camden senior Ajwan Leaming looks back at the 75-66 loss to Bishop Eustace.

Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223,, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.

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