When the lights flickered several times late in the first quarter, it almost felt like part of the show.
The gym was only partially lit when Sebastian Robinson was fouled while making a reverse layup.
He converted the free throw, and his Camden basketball team scored 23 of the game’s next 25 points.
The Panthers’ 65-25 win at Camden Catholic Saturday afternoon was, in fact, a show.
The Camden boys’ basketball team is a show — an attraction unto itself — in an atmosphere that has to be seen to be appreciated.
Every game is packed and rowdy.
Every player on the roster, it seems, plays above the rim. They all play multiple positions, orchestrated by a coach, Rick Brunson, who paces the sideline with a scowl fixed on his face and appears more a menacing presence than a mentor.
And after the win, when asked to comment on his team’s impressive performance, the scowl was still plastered on Brunson’s face when he said: “I don’t talk to the media.”
“We’ve been trying to get out and press and apply pressure and just play fast,” said senior forward Lance Ware, a 6-foot-9 University of Kentucky recruit and one of the only players who Brunson allows to speak to the media after games. “We all want to be successful together. We want to be disciplined and play hard together.”
Ware scored all 10 of his points in that dominant first half. He also grabbed eight rebounds and blocked a shot.
Freshman phenom and Camden royalty D.J. Wagner — one of the players not allowed to speak with reporters on Saturday — scored a game-high 13 points even as there were moments when he appeared every bit the freshman that he is.
Camden Catholic actually made the first shot of the game — a three-pointer by senior Aric Hall — before Camden rattled off 10 straight and quickly established control.
The score was 12-7 before the lights started flickering in the gym, a problem that didn’t extend into the second quarter, and Camden (8-1) really asserted itself.
By halftime, it was 45-12, and the second half was a formality, a chance to take in elite talent and watch the Panthers brush aside a team considered one of the best in South Jersey, if not the state.
Camden Catholic, led by Colin Merriman’s eight points on Saturday, beat Camden twice last year.
But that was before the show really arrived in Camden. Things are different now.
“It was the perfect storm. We played a terrible game, and they played a great game,” said Camden Catholic coach Matt Crawford, whose team dropped to 7-2. “They were the better team by far. We need to learn from this. Let it soak in, feel the pain. But learn from it and get better from it.
“[Camden] just keeps coming at you. They’re very deep. They have a lot of guys who can play multiple positions, and they really play the game the right way.”
Camden 20 25 12 8 — 65
Camden Catholic 9 3 5 8 — 25
C: Lance Ware 10, Jerome Brewer 9, Tyshan Frisbey 4, D.J. Wagner 13, Ta’Quan Woodley 4, Cian Medley 2, Sebastian Robinson 5, Devin Benson 7, Cornelius Robinson 6, Nafi Muhhamad 3, Davion Harper 3.