Every time he hit a three-pointer in the first quarter, Camden’s Myles Thompson flashed a smile in the general direction of the opposing sideline.
After the game, he insisted it wasn’t personal, wasn’t really about the opponent at all. Thompson was just feeling it.
And he wasn’t just sinking shots — he was sinking wide-open shots. His team was fluid, and he had already accomplished one of his goals for the afternoon.
“We wanted to come out and go hard the entire game, right from the start,” said Thompson, a 6-foot-5 senior guard for the Camden boys’ basketball team. “Our [previous game] was slow — we weren’t playing very hard. We had to change that.”
Thompson scored 11 points, including three triples, in the opening period, setting the stage for a decisive 66-44 victory over St. Augustine in the Winter Classic Showcase on Saturday afternoon at Paul VI. Thompson finished with 22 points.
The game featured two of South Jersey’s legendary coaches in Camden’s John Valore and the Hermits’ Paul Rodio. Between the two, there was close to 100 years of coaching experience walking the sideline.
“They beat us in every phase of the game,” said Rodio, who hasn’t lost his edge after winning the 900th game of his career in January. “They were more prepared, better than us today and we didn’t do anything to stop them. That was my impression of the game.”
Walking out of his team’s locker room after the win, Valore was sporting a winter coat with a piece of tape covering a St. Augustine logo — his son, JC, is the Hermits’ longtime boys’ lacrosse coach. Valore tore the tape off, tongue-in-cheek, and offered the flip side of Rodio’s breakdown.
“I thought we played exceptionally well,” said Valore, who noted that several of his players were battling illness. “They rose to the occasion. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Camden (15-3) outscored St. Augustine (16-4) in every quarter. The Panthers were ahead by 49-34 after three periods and the Hermits — led by Charles Solomon’s 17 points — all but waved the white flag in the fourth quarter.
While Thompson was Camden’s spark in the first quarter, junior guard Ethan Tarte shined for Camden in the second half, slashing through the Hermits’ defense as his team elevated the game’s pace.
Tarte scored all 12 of his points in the second half, he also chipped in five rebounds and two steals.
“My role on this team is hard defense, attack the basket, hit open shots and bring energy,” Tarte said.
It’s a testament to Camden’s depth that Tarte isn’t the first or even the second scoring option, yet he looked every bit as talented and athletic as anyone on the opposing team.
“I wouldn’t want to play for any other team,” Tarte said. “I would choose this team over any team in the country — in North Jersey or South Jersey. I’m very comfortable with my role.”
Valore’s team will be right back at it with a game Monday night at home against the Patrick School, another pre-playoff tune-up. He is happy to have Tarte on his side.
“Ethan is one of the toughest kids in my 50 years of coaching,” Valore said. “I’m coaching tough kids and they play intelligently and they don’t like to lose.”
St. Augustine 10 15 9 10 – 44
Camden 16 16 17 17 – 66
SA: Charles Solomon 17, Travis Stoll 6, Marlon Hargis 9, Jordan Kendricks 5, Cole Vanderslice 3, Joe Ruchser 2, Yeaman 2.
C: Myles Thompson 22, Corey Greer 9, Tyvon Frisby 10, Nasir Hinson 1, El-Khana Hidalgo 5, Ethan Tarte 12, Saleem Brown 7.