Bend but don't break
It looked as if Chase was on track for a huge upset to close out the regular season, but East Rutherford overcame a 26-9 deficit after the first quarter to knock off the Trojans 73-56 in their home gym Friday night.
Chase (10-10, 4-8 SMAC) came out of the gates on fire. Tyrell Boykins ignited the Trojan scoring with an opening 3 and from there Shad Blanton took over the first quarter with eight of Chase’s next 10 points, including two 3-pointers.
"He was hot," Chase head coach Joe Jessen said of his senior guard. "When he's hot like that you just let him go. He took good shots and didn't force anything. I told him he can shoot the ball 25 times as long as it's a good shot."
Tyrell Boykins capped the opening 17-6 run for the Trojans on a transition layup that forced East head coach Brad Levine to call a timeout with 2:17 left in the first quarter.
"We just looked really sluggish and tired," Levine said. "I told them to keep their heads up and that it would turn sooner or later. I kept telling them that we had plenty of time"
Blanton remained on fire with two more deep balls bringing his first-quarter total to 14 points that set Chase up with a 26-9 lead heading into the second quarter.
"Chase came out and shot the ball really well. They gained their 26 points," Levine said. "We didn't give them those points."
East (18-5, 10-2 SMAC) doubled their first-quarter total to 18 points less than three minutes into the second quarter and cut the Trojan lead to 12 at 30-18 before Jessen was forced to call a timeout.
In the blink of an eye, the Chase lead diminished to just four with three minutes left in the half. And with 1:07 left, the lead completely evaporated when a Shakari Jackson putback tied the game 32-32.
East took their lead on their next possession but Blanton knotted the score at 34-34 just before the teams headed into the locker room for halftime.
"We just came out in the second quarter and played," Levine said.
"What really happened was the fact the they kept getting second and third shots," Jessen said.
Jarvis Hopper set the tone for East out of the half with a thunderous slam to send the Cavs up by two, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Strong bench play by Jackson and a buzzer-beating 3 by T.J. Watkins led East to a 57-45 lead at the end of the third quarter.
"[Jackson] has been wanting his chance," Levine said after the game. "He's been getting better and better at practice. We probably should have used him more in some other games this year."
The Cavs opened the fourth on a 9-3 run before Jessen called a timeout at the 4:45 mark.
As part of that run, East’s Travis Waldroup-Rodriguez reached 2,000 career points after entering the game with 1,982. He finished the game with the necessary 18.
With 1:02 left on the clock and a 70-52 lead, Levine emptied his bench and allowed his reserves to close out the 73-56 win.
"In the second half we battled and I stayed in that zone as long as I could to slow them down, but eventually they're athleticism took over," Jessen said after the game. "Overall I'm proud of the way they played tonight."
"I thought Chase played hard and came out on fire. They played as good a quarter as anyone has against us all year," Levine said. "[Jessen] has done a great job with them all year."
Hopper notched a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds while DeVonte Boykins filled the stat sheet with 15 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and five steals.
Blanton led the Trojans with 16 points.
Conference tournament pairings will be announced Saturday morning.
East Rutherford 73, Chase 56
ER^9^25^23^16 -- 73
Shelby^26^8^11^11 -- 56