Defense, free-throw shooting lifts Yoemen to playoff berth

For the first time since the 2011 season, Yoemen basketball is back in the playoffs. Cameron secured their spot in the postseason Friday with a 54-40 win over the Academy Bumblebees in a play-in game for the fourth and final spot out of 20-3A.

“The last three years we have been, in reality, a second or third place team in our district,” said head coach Ed Glendening. “We have lost so many heartbreaking games. We counted the other day at least 10. We did a great job tonight.”

Just a few short weeks ago, Cameron had dropped a heart-breaking one-point game to Academy on the road. In that contest, Academy hit nine 3-pointers, one of which was the eventual game winner with just 10 seconds remaining.

On Friday in Rogers, it appeared as if we were heading down that same path. The Bees had a 26-15 lead in the second period and had already sunk 5 treys.

However, Cameron stayed persistent with their defensive effort the remainder of the game, giving up just 11 points in the final two quarters.

“It was a total effort,” said Glendening. “If we had been doing that the last three years, we’d of been second or third all year long.”

Cameron’s defense held Academy to just 14-48 (29 percent) shooting on the night, while forcing 13 turnovers.

“We understand how important our defense is,” added Kevondre Wesley, who had two steals in the game. “Defense is needed because we feed off of that and our energy increases the more stops that we get. That is what drives us on offense.”

Cameron closed the second quarter on a 8-0 run and trailed by just one at the half, 29-28. Guard Jordan Young stole an inbound pass from Academy and laid in the bucket near the end of the period to cap off the run.

Cameron shot 18-47 (38 percent) from the field, but a big reason for late double-digit lead was free throw shooting. The Yoemen were 16-23 (70 percent) from the free-throw line.

“That has been our main focus all season long and we were finally able to perform at the free-throw line tonight,” said Wesley, who made 7 of 8 free throws. “That is what won the game for us. Free throws are crucial in close games like this, especially when you play teams that shoot the three-ball a lot.”

Cameron closed the second half on a 26-11 run, ensuring there would be no late dramatic efforts from the Bees this go around.

To me, I think we got a second chance and we knew we had to play hard and get to win and go to the playoffs,” said guard Danny Perez after the win. “If we keep playing like that, we’ll be good.”

Wesley had 14 points, LaRondre Booze came in with 10, Sicory Smith and Levi May had 9, while Perez had 6. Wesley had seven rebounds and Smith had six.