Battle of history
It may be an understatement to say that East Rutherford and Shelby have history when it comes to boys basketball.
Three years ago, en route to a state title, Shelby's only blemish was a loss to the Cavaliers.
Last season, the Lions defeated East Rutherford in the regional semifinals after the Cavaliers defeated Shelby early in the season.
Tonight, more can be added to that history as the two teams square off at East Rutherford High School in a SMAC showdown.
"The history behind the two of us and anytime one gets a win over the other, it is like a one-up," said East Rutherford head coach Brad Levine. "We have battled each other over the last five years and it is about dead-even and all the games have been barn-burners."
The Lions (14-2, 4-0 SMAC) and East Rutherford (11-3, 4-0 SMAC) are currently tied atop the conference standings.
As the first half of the conference season is coming to a close, Levine said that tonight's game — which will put one team on top of the SMAC — carries that much more weight.
"I put a lot of emphasis on the first half of the conference schedule," Levine said. "If you can be where you want to after that, the second half becomes working hard and just getting better."
Shelby is currently led by junior Gabe DeVoe. DeVoe is averaging 21.6 points per game along with his 60 percent overall shooting from the field. He also leads the Lions with 109 rebounds (6.9 per game).
"The biggest thing about him is the relationship he has with our kids," Levine said. "He plays with our kids in the off-season and he is, I think, their best overall player but anyone of them can really step up."
But, Levine said that senior Donte Falls could be a big threat for the Lions. Falls brings in a 14.6 point-per-game average along with 6.2 rebounds per game on the season.
"He can really play any spot on the court and he has had big nights against us before," Levine said.
East Rutherford will counter with juniors Devonte Boykins and Travis Waldroup-Rodriguez.
The issues there is that Boykins is still nursing an injury that kept him out of the lineup earlier in the season and Rodriguez is still new to the Cavalier program.
In searching for weaknesses, Levine said that Shelby has few, if any.
That will make things tougher for East Rutherford, especially on the defensive end.
The Lions will bring a slightly taller team to East Rutherford tonight, while the Cavaliers will have a guard-laden lineup.
"We have to defend on our end of the floor and that is what I impress on our kids," Levine said. "We also have to be a good rebounding team with our size."
Shelby has averaged over 35 rebounds per game on the season to East Rutherford's 28. Offensively, the Lions have put up 1,222 points in their 16 games — averaging 76.4 points per game.
East Rutherford, on the other hand, have averaged just over 60 points per game.
"It will be who comes out and sticks to their game," Levine said. "We both like to play full man, but we can both setting into the half-court game."
However, like any two teams with the history that Shelby and East Rutherford have, there is really no telling just what can happen come game time.
"I can't exactly tell you what we are going to see," Levine said. "We have both had four days because of exams to prepare and that can be a good thing or a bad thing."
For East Rutherford, Levine said what you see is what you get.
"We're going to do the same thing and make it 32 minutes of chaos," Levine said. "When we can get the game to that point, it can come down to who can defend and who can rebound."