By Chris LeMasney
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – The Camden County College Cougars men’s basketball team won its home opener 77-73 on Saturday against the Salem Community College Mighty Oaks.
“We’re very happy about this win,” said head coach Louis Abbattista. “Our guys just kept fighting and pushing back and it paid off in the end.”
Fans were loud and rowdy, shouting over one another as both teams clawed their way back to the lead. In the end, Camden County emerged victorious.
“We put a lot of hard work into this,” Abbattista continued, “along with a lot of rest. I gave them all a couple days off from practice this week. They’re students with personal lives and homework so they need some time to rest.”
About 200 fans of the home and opposing teams attended the game. They included Larry Woody, who was there to support Salem Community.
“I’m here to support my little brother, Lamaar,” Woody said. “I’m really happy to see him doing well. The crowd is really great. Camden County has a lot of fans and it’s definitely helping to increase the intensity of this game.”
Although Camden County won, the Cougars’ coach and players agreed they have room for improvement.
“I think we’ve just got to get better at playing together,” stated Abbattista. “On a junior college level, you get new guys all the time so it can be hard to get everyone to work together properly and you can’t simulate a game in practice so you don’t always know what’s going to happen.”
Rahsaan Brown, who plays point guard and shooting guard for the Cougars, expressed a similar opinion.
“I think to improve, we have to get better at communicating,” explained Brown. “We all need to step up as more powerful vocal leaders.”
While the coach and players acknowledged what they needed to do to improve, this did not overshadow their happiness at winning.
“It was a good win,” stated point guard Justin Ryder. “It was pretty hard at first because everybody starts out sort of doing their own thing, but once the second half started, I think we really got our nerves out of the way and started playing a lot better.”
The last four minutes of the game were the most crucial for the Cougars. The tension was high and could be felt by those in the gym. Hearts were pounding in time to the sounds of stomping feet and fans shouting “Defense! Defense!” as Camden County claimed the nail-biter of a game.
The win improved the Cougars’ season record to 2-0.