For Roman Catholic, the atmosphere was nothing new.
The level of competition was familiar as well.
The Cahillites’ big-game experience paid off in a big way Monday night in a 70-59 victory over Camden before a capacity-plus crowd at Cherry Hill East.
“We play in these kinds of games all the time,” Roman Catholic senior guard Lynn Greer said.
Greer was 5-for-6 from the foul line in the final three minutes and finished with 16 points and sophomore Jalen Duren generated 18 points with 17 rebounds as Roman Catholic pulled away in the fourth quarter of the pulse-pounding nightcap of the four-game Dajuan Wagner Play-by-Play Classic.
Roman Catholic (5-2) outscored Camden by 20-4 in the fourth quarter. The Cahillites trailed by five entering the final period and by 11 midway through the third.
“I was so proud of the leadership shown by Lynn Greer and Jalen Duren,” Roman Catholic coach Matt Griffin said. “They never wavered. When you have guys who show that kind of leadership, that’s how you win these types of games.”
The loss was tough for Camden (4-1), which appeared to be in command after freshman guard D.J. Wagner made a three-point jumper and junior Jerome Brewer added a layup for a 43-32 lead midway through the third quarter.
Wagner, the son of the event’s namesake, finished with 19 points in a remarkably poised performance for a 14-year-old before a roaring crowd that filled both sections of bleachers in the 2,000-seat gymnasium and stood four- and five-deep behind both baskets.
“Great player,” Griffin said of D.J. Wagner, with whom the Roman Catholic coach had worked at a USA Basketball junior national team training camp this past summer in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Brewer and junior forward TaQuan Woodley both scored 10 and senior forward Lance Ware, a Kentucky recruit, added eight for Camden.
“They are a very talented team,” Greer said of Camden.
Roman Catholic got a big lift from freshman guard Zxavier Brown, who made a trio of three-pointers on his way to 15 points.
“Best freshman in the city,” Greer said of Brown.
The 6-10 Duren was a dominant force in the paint, throwing down five dunks, including a left-handed, tap-slam that brought the crowd to its feet.
Sophomore guard Justice Williams added 14 points for Roman Catholic.
“We also have the two best sophomores in the city,” Greer said of Duren and Williams.
Roman Catholic’s experience in pressure situations showed in its ability to close out the game. The Cahillites opened the fourth quarter with a 8-0 run to take a 58-55 lead. Camden closed to 58-57 on Wagner’s bucket, but Brown buried a three-pointer for a 61-57 advantage.
After a Camden miss, Roman Catholic spread the floor and worked the clock. The Cahillites scored their final nine points from the foul line, going 9-for-12 in the last 1 minute, 57 seconds.
“We really just needed to stop playing selfish and start making the right plays,” Greer said. “We’re used to these games and it’s not just the games. We practice three hours every day and we go over these situations.”
Roman Catholic 16 16 18 20 – 70
Camden 17 19 19 4 – 59
RC: Jalen Duren 18, Justice Williams 14, Lynn Greer 16, Nasir Lett 7, Zxavier Brown 15.
C: DJ Wagner 19, Lance Ware 8, TaQuan Woodley 10, Jerome Brewer 10, Devin Benson 10. Cornelius Robinson 2.