BY RYAN COBB Sports writer
VERONA — The Camden boys basketball team did something on Friday night that the Blue Devils hadn’t done in 22 years: They beat the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill.
Led by a 33-point eruption by sophomore Ryan McCarthy, the Blue Devils came in and played some of their best basketball of the season in stunning the Red Devils, 58-50, at VVS High School.
"The kids played outstanding," said Camden coach Eric Bird. "We always play hard all year win or lose. At 22 years, it’s been a long time. It’s special for the kids to be a part of something like that. The kids busted their tails off."
Camden improved to 2-10 overall, while VVS dropped to 6-7.
The game stayed close throughout, with Camden edging the hosts out in the first period by just one point before McCarthy began to get on a tear by tallying 12 points in the second quarter, including one big three-point basket to put Camden ahead, 13-12, and kick-starting a rally that extended the lead to 10 points at the most.
McCarthy, though, was just getting started as he had 22 total points by the end of the third and sailed in 11 more, including six off foul shots, in the fourth to wrap up his memorable night.
"My teammates were finding me in the open spots," said McCarthy, who also made three three-pointers. "I wasn’t keeping track and just focused on the game the whole time. We’re all excited to get this win. It’s amazing when you think about it."
Bird said the youngster is a special player who still has a lot to show for, and Friday’s performance was proof of the potential he possesses.
"Since the beginning of the year, I knew he was one of those guys that would step up for us," he said.
"He’s got a lot of ability, and he’s got talent. I told him he’s got a lot of improving to do still and got a long way to go, but he showed what he’s capable of."
Aside from McCarthy’s stellar night, the Blue Devils simply cashed in on getting the early lead and forced VVS to play hard to get it back throughout. They did a good job of that, too, by beating them in transition, forcing them to make mistakes while handling the ball, and also keeping at least one of the Red Devils’ two leading scorers, Brett Field and Joe Spinella, at bay.
Bird felt that the senior Spinella would be the one to contain of the two Devils due to his reputation of shooting in multiple three-pointers and getting as most as 20 points on a good night.
The plan worked as Spinella was held a bit to 15 points while contributing with eight assists, even though the 6-foot-5 junior forward Field scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
"Field hurt us, but I think we did a good job on Spinella because when’s hot, he’s dangerous," said Bird. "Last year, he put 29 on us here, and he can shoot anywhere, so you got to pick and choose your position. I thought by at least holding one of them down that gave us a chance. If they both went off, then I think it would’ve been maybe a long night for us."
Senior Colby Stratton also knocked in 13 points and senior Karl Kirch added 10 points for Camden.
The fouls also caught up with the Red Devils in the third period, as well with six infractions over Camden’s one foul and totaling 23 team fouls with Nash Robb and Alex Saville both fouling out, while the Blue Devils committed 16 fouls. The mishaps proved costly as Camden swished in 21-of-39 shots from the charity stripe with McCarthy leading in that category too, shooting 12-for-16.
VVS tried to come back and muster up a rally and did so in the fourth while trailing by 12 points in the first part of the period when Spinella sailed in his second three-pointer then Field took control by getting in seven points and cutting the lead to 49-45 at around the three-minute minute mark as Kirch made one free throw for Camden’s only score during the VVS comeback. However when it mattered most, VVS couldn’t get the ball into the net for a chance to tie it.
"We just didn’t seem like we came out with any intensity at first," said VVS head coach Bob Esposito. "We got behind and we were chasing the whole game. We cut it to four and we had our chances at the end but we just couldn’t make the baskets when we needed it."
Esposito did say though that a positive that came out of the loss was VVS never quitting.
"We didn’t quit even when we were down by 12 at the most," he said. "Camden’s well-coached and they do things down the stretch when they have to, and hats off to them."
He added that even though the Red Devils’ record drops to 6-7, he’s still been satisfied with their performance all season as the Class B team have had to match up against a tough schedule this year with several games against Class A schools or higher.
VVS will look to rebound on Wednesday when they host Nottingham High of Syracuse at 6:30 p.m. and Camden will host Altmar-Parish-Williamstown on Tuesday at 7 p.m.