Cavs lose out on SMAC crown
The walls were lined with fans and each aisle step turned into a seat for 2-3 more. No matter where they sat, each fan witnessed a game well-worthy of the eight-dollar admission.
With the SMAC Tournament title on the line, the East Rutherford Cavaliers fell to Shelby for the third time this season by a final of 49-46 Thursday night at Shelby High.
The early Shelby press bothered the Cavs, but it also contributed to two quick fouls by defensive specialist Chris Wray.
3-point shooting put East up 8-4 early, but hustle and contested layups stretched the lead to 14-4 with two minutes left in the first.
After a Travis Waldroup-Rodriguez buzzer-beating 3 to end the first quarter, the Cavaliers led Shelby 20-6.
Waldroup-Rodriguez was relegated to the bench with a technical foul early in the second quarter and Shelby took advantage with a 5-0 run.
Whistles and turnovers dominated the early parts of the second quarter. With four minutes left in the half, Shelby was already in the double bonus.
East’s Roddric Ross had a couple good looks at 3-pointers from the right wing to extend the Cavs lead, but seemed trigger-shy and passed them up which ultimately led to more Cavalier turnovers.
Both teams struggled from the charity stripe and the Cavs scored just four points in the frame, luckily, Shelby’s struggles from the line allowed East to go into the half with 24-18 lead.
“I have no idea what happened,” Levine said. “We just couldn’t make a shot. We didn’t change a thing.”
With 4:16 left in the third quarter, Donte Falls gave Shelby their first lead of the night at 26-25 on an old-fashioned three-point play.
Another easy bucket for Shelby forced Levine to call a timeout in hopes of settling his team and the crowd.
Ross finally knocked down a 3 with 1:40 left putting East back out front 29-28. He beat the third-quarter buzzer with another trey to set Eat up with a 34-29 lead heading into the final quarter.
Things got tense when Shelby’s Gabe DeVoe pick-pocketed DeVonte Boykins on an inbounds play. Boykins rejected a DeVoe shot attempt from behind before calling a timeout. Boykins and Shelby’s Cedric Cannon exchanged words on the way to the bench but no call was made.
A Wray basket cut the East lead to 40-39 with 4:15 remaining. Sheby’s struggles from the line continued as Falls missed two that could have kept the deficit to, but a Specner Clark tip-in on the second miss rescued the Lions and made the score 42-41.
A Wray dunk followed a Clark layup in transition put Shelby on top 45-44 with 1:15 left.
The teams traded buckets over the next 60 seconds but a Shelby bucket with 4.5 seconds left to go up 49-46 iced the game.
Shelby drained over 30 seconds on that final possession where the Cavs chose not to foul and send the sporadic Lions to the free-throw line.
“I didn’t choose not to foul,” Levine said. “I told them to foul immediately when [Wray] touched the ball.”
Levine called a timeout and dropped to all fours to draw up a final play, but Ross’ last-second heave landed wide of the net and the Golden Lions were crowned tournament champs.
T.J. Watkins led all scorers with 12 while Jarvis Hopper added 10 for East.
DeVoe led Shelby with 11 points.
East awaits their first–round opponent set to be announced today.
“We certainly hope that we see them again.” Levine said. “If we see them again that means we’re in the third round of the playoffs.”