On consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter, Ethan Tarte found Lance Ware open for thunderous dunks.
“He’s been doing that on us in practice,” Tarte said.
On Thursday night, Ware finally was able to make his debut for the Camden basketball team.
A 6-foot-8 sophomore and transfer from Life Center Academy in Burlington County, Ware made an immediate impact in visiting Camden’s 66-47 victory over Lenape in an Olympic Conference crossover clash.
Ware generated nine points with 10 rebounds and four blocks. He made four baskets, and all four of them were dunks.
“It was just great to get out on the court with my teammates,” Ware said. “I’m not 100 percent. I’ve been practicing, but practice isn’t a game.”
Tarte, a 6-foot-2 junior guard, scored 12 points with three assists and senior point guard Corey Greer added 18 points for Camden (7-1), the No. 1 team in the Inquirer Top 25.
Senior forward Andrew Sims scored 18 for No. 12 Lenape (7-5).
“We competed,” Lenape coach Chuck Guittar said. “We kept them out of the lane, we rebounded, we didn’t turn the ball over. We just needed them to miss shots and us to make shots, and it was the exact opposite.”
Camden hit eight three-pointers, with Greer making four and Tarte and senior guard Saleem Brown each making two.
“We made shots and we had guys open because Lance was in the game,” Camden coach John Valore said. “They need to be aware of him, so even when he’s not scoring he’s making an impact.”
Ware made his presence felt in the first quarter, with a rebound and dunk. He had back-to-back blocks in the second quarter, bringing Camden’s bench and crowd to its feet.
“He makes a total difference,” Tarte said. “He’s got a high motor. He can play. He’s a great teammate.”
A smooth lefthander who can handle the basketball, Ware missed his only three-point attempt. He was more of a force in the paint at both ends of the floor.
“In the first half, I was so excited,” Ware said. “It’s the most excited I’ve been to play a game, maybe ever.”
Ware’s presence could push Camden to another level. He frees 6-foot-6 senior Myles Thompson (nine points, including a three-pointer) to play a little farther from the basket, and he creates space on the perimeter for Greer, Tarte, and Brown.
And with Ware as a rim protector, Camden is able to extend its defense, exert more pressure and take more chances.
Camden strengthened its schedule this season in part because of the addition of Ware, one of the state’s top recruits in the class of 2020. The Panthers play Westtown (Pa.), which features Duke recruit and McDonald’s All-American Cameron Reddish, on Saturday at Lower Merion (Pa.) and are scheduled to meet Philadelphia Public League power Imhotep Charter Jan. 27 at Bishop Eustace.
“It’s real exciting to think we’re we can go from here,” Tarte said.
Ware, who attends Met East High School in Camden, was happy to put his first game in a purple uniform behind him.
“It was great to play, great to be part of it and great to get the ‘W,’ ” Ware said. “Last night, I was so excited, I was telling my teammates, ‘Tomorrow’s game day.’ I went home and went to bed early because I couldn’t wait to get up and play.”
Camden 23 11 13 19 – 66
Lenape 15 9 13 10 – 47
C: Corey Greer 18, Ethan Tarte 12, Myles Thompson 9, Saleem Brown 12, Lance Ware 9, Nasim Hinson 4, Jaden Halle 2.
L: Jake Topolski 8, Alex Matthews 3, Steve Matlack 7, Matt Ingersoll 5, Andrew Sims 18, Billy Bruno 5, Ryan Erlanger 1.