For the second time in as many weeks, another slow start defensively put the Camp Verde High School boys basketball team in a halftime hole, but this time could not complete the comeback as it lost to Horizon Honors High School 60-50 at home on Thursday, Dec. 14.
The Cowboys [4-4] gave up 19 points in the second half after allowing 23 in the first quarter alone, but their offensive production also slowed down the stretch.
“We’ve got to be more deliberate offensively, I feel like we settled way too much for quick shots,” Camp Verde head coach Dan Wall said. “We’re still young in that regard, trying to learn ‘OK, what’s going to be a good shot this time down the floor in this situation.’”
It was Camp Verde junior center Dayton Smith’s second game since returning from injury. Smith had an important presence inside, scoring baskets and grabbing rebounds.
However the Eagles were tall and athletic and had some outside shooting. Slow rotations to the perimeter allowed junior guard Gabe Knippers to get going from beyond the arc.
It was Knippers who opened the scoring precisely in that way. Smith followed up with a bucket, and later junior guard Ismael Hogan drove the lane and dished off to Smith to tie the game at 5. Camp Verde sophomore guard Jason Collier tied it at 10 with a three of his own.
Horizon Honors had two and-1 opportunities and two triples during the last three minutes of the quarter to open a 23-12 advantage.
“Their guards hurt us, it was a bummer because we knew what they were going to run, we didn’t defend as well as I would’ve liked early in the game,” Wall said. “They hurt us on a couple of those back cuts and a couple of the threes from [Knippers] and that was a tough way to begin the game.
“I feel like the kids battled back and responded well, but we did put ourselves in a pretty big hole to start with.”
In the second quarter the Cowboys went on a 14-2 run to make it close again, trailing by as little as one at 29-28 with 3:32 to go. Camp Verde senior guard Chase Decker hit back-to-back threes to spark the run.
The Eagles finished the half on a 7-3 run to lead 36-31 at the break.
Hogan cut the deficit to 39-38, and shots were not falling for Horizon Honors, but Smith picked up his fourth foul and was forced to the bench with 3:21 left.
Both teams began to run the floor and rush on offense without much scoring, but the Eagles did turn consecutive Cowboy turnovers into four points.
After another transition layup, the visitors led 47-40 with one quarter left.
“We started getting nervous and a little bit tentative, really pressing a little bit,” Wall said. “It’s trying to get them to figure out that’s not what’s going to get you back in the game, it’s having great possessions every time down the floor.”
Camp Verde could not muster another lopsided run in the final frame. It saw a three-point play opportunity for Collier get turned over on a traveling call, and then the Eagles scored a basket to complete the four-point swing to make it 51-40. Collier made a tough layup and hit a free throw, but with only four minutes remaining, the Cowboys were on short time.
“I really hope we’re able to take some of these things to heart and learn them and use them to get better as the season moves along,” Wall said.
They traveled to Tonopah Valley High School on Friday, Dec. 15, falling 57-51, and beat Chino Valley High School at home 64-50 on Tuesday, Dec. 12.
They next play on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 29 and 30 when they host the Yvonne Johnson Memorial tournament.