East Rutherford boys top R-S Central, 81-76
To talk to the coaches from East Rutherford and R-S Central, you might not be able to tell who really won their boys basketball contest Tuesday night.
For Cavalier head coach Brad Levine, while his team was able to pull away for an 81-76 win, not pleased may be the best phrase to use.
“What I didn’t expect was for East Rutherford to play defense they way they did,” Levine said.
Of course, R-S Central head coach Greg Wright didn’t have a lot of accolades for his team defense either, despite staying within a basket of East Rutherford (7-1, 1-0 SMAC) for a quarter-and-a-half.
“I was really hoping we would feed off our offense but, I was not pleased with our inability to stay in front of the dribble,” Wright said.
East Rutherford used a 16-4 run over the last 4 minutes, 20 seconds of the first half and held the Hilltoppers (6-4, 0-1 SMAC) without a field goal over four minutes of the second quarter to push out to a 10-point halftime lead.
Just as it seemed that the Cavaliers were getting comfortable, R-S Central guard Jay Blanton used one his eight 3-pointers to claw to within one, 42-41 with 4:03 left in the third quarter.
But, the Cavaliers got three straight 3-pointers from Jarvis Hopper and Roddric Ross to pull back to a 10-point advantage.
The two teams continued to trade jabs through the third and into the fourth.
A 10-2 run by R-S Central midway through the fourth got the Hilltoppers as close as 4, but they got no closer than that down the stretch.
“We didn’t stop the ball, we didn’t rotate ... just a lousy showing,” Levine said. “That is not to take anything away from R-S because they came out here and played really really well and we didn’t play defense.”
It was Blanton and his 3-pointers that held East Rutherford in check, especially in the first half where he connected on five of his eight, including three straight in the first quarter.
But, it was the run in the second quarter by the Cavaliers that halted any momentum gained by R-S in the first half.
“We talked to the kids about eliminating those runs,” Wright said. “I thought we got apprehensive and we didn’t get aggressive.”
However, no matter how much the Cavaliers were able to pull away, R-S Central was able to battle back, cutting the lead to under double-digits for most of the third quarter.
The Cavaliers managed to keep pace from distance, hitting five 3-pointers in the third quarter — including two each from Hopper and Ross.
“I thought we did some good things on the offensive end and we were able to rebound the ball,” Levine said.
Hopper led all scorers with 29 points for the Cavaliers as Travis Waldroup-Rodriguez added 16 and T.J. Watkins had 14.
For the Hilltoppers, Blanton had 26 while Rashaun Whitesides added 15 and Jordan Hamilton had 12.