"This is the game"
Less than a month ago, Shelby and East Rutherford basketball played one of the more memorable games of the season. In a low-scoring affair, The Golden Lions (19-3, 9-1 SMAC) prevailed with a 46-43 win. Tonight the Cavaliers (17-4, 9-1 SMAC) hit the road in search for a crucial conference win.
With a win tonight the Cavaliers or Lions will have the inside track a conference title and the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament starting Feb. 18.
"This is the game," East head coach Brad Levine said. "I think it's a three-team race as far as I'm concerned (East, Shelby and Freedom). Any of the three top teams can beat the other one."
The top seed in the tournament avoids a second round matchup against the dangerous Freedom Patriots.
The first meeting between these two western powerhouses was didn't feature many made shots. Shelby sot just 41 percent from the floor while East shot a dismal 29 percent including seven 2-point shots and seven 3-pointers.
"I looked at the tape a second time and we just played pretty bad offensively," Levine said. "We held the ball for 30 or 40 seconds, which is great if that's the type of team you are, but we didn't get a better look after that time as we did five seconds into the possession like we normally do."
Tonight's game has the makings of another defensive battle.
"It wouldn't surprise me if it's another game in the 50s. The matchup with us won't allow them to score like they do in other games," Levine said. "They're very long. They can disrupt what you want to do. They press a lot and get their hands on a lot of passes and score in bunches. Their length doesn't affect us a whole lot because we can handle that pressure."
That length includes a starting-five measuring 6-7, 6-5, 6-5, 6-3 and 6-3.
Against that size, Levine understand the importance of every possession.
"The team that makes the most free throws and gets the most rebounds will probably win the game," Levine said.
Jarvis Hopper and Roddric Ross will be heavily-relied upon to snag those precious rebounds.
"I need both of those two to have real good ball games and play up to their capabilities. I need to get 6-8 rebounds out of both of them," Levine said. "[Hopper] has a knack to have a big game rebounding. He doesn't mind going down inside and rebounding. The grind of being inside with the big kids doesn't phase him."
Ross, more known for his shooting ability, is expected to use his length (6-6) in the trenches.
"I need [Ross] to keep getting his rebound numbers up," Levine said. "A few offensive rebounds usually leads to putbacks or fouls, and defensive rebounds lead to transition that speeds the game up, which we like. I'm asking everybody on the floor to find a body, box out and rebound. If we do that then we have a good chance."
The Cavs have played at a high level in their previous two games including a 61-point win over Burns and a 19-point win over Freedom. The charge can be associated with DeVonte Boykins and his healing knee.
"You can see [Boykins' play] evolving," Levine said of his junior point guard. "He's getting it to the rim a little bit more and getting used to playing on that leg that isn't 100 percent."
"Just his presence on the floor means so much for us because of his toughness," Levine said. "He knows what his role is right now. He's not going to go out there and get 20 points. For us to win he doesn't need 20 points and 10 rebounds."
If tonight's game gets tight in the final minute, as many Shelby/East Rutherford games tend to be, expect the ball to be in Boykins' hands.
"When times gets tough, I know one person that I can get the ball in the hands of and get the best possible option and scenario that I can get," Levine said.
Defensively, the Cavs expect to key in on Shelby star Gabe DeVoe who went for 16 points in their first meeting. Among those 16 points were two pivotal 3-points in the final two minutes.
"You take away DeVoe and kind of cut the head off the snake," Levine said. "I don't know if we can take anyone away but we just try to limit them."
DeVoe, who plays AAU basketball with a handful of Cavaliers in the summer, is no stranger to the Cavs.
"He's like one of ours," Levine said. "You just got to make sure DeVoe doesn't go for a big game. I think our kids know him well enough and we understand what we have to do against him."
With all the talent on the floor and what's at stake for each team, Lloyd Little Gymnasium will be electric.
"There is no question what the significance of this game is," Levine said. "That in itself has to get you pumped up a little more."
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Shelby High School.
13- Travis Waldroup-Rodriguez^19.6 PPG
23- T.J. Watkins^8.5 PPG
24- Jarvis Hopper^13.2 PPG
30- Roddric Ross^9.6 PPG
12- DeVonte Boykins^8.9 PPG
14- Donte Falls^Sr.^6-5
12- Chris Wray^Sr.^6-7
22- Cedric Cannon^Sr.^6-3
44- Spencer Clark^Sr.^6-5
10- Gabe DeVoe^Jr.^6-3
Scoring^Travis Waldroup-Rodriguez 19.6^Gabe DeVoe 20.2
Rebounds^Jarvis Hopper 5.7^Gabe DeVoe 6.2
Assists^DeVonte Boykins 3.2^Gabe DeVoe 4.7
Steals^T.J. Watkins 2.2^Chris Wray 2.2
Blocks^Roddric Ross .8^Donte Falls 2.0
Shelby at East Rutherford High School
Friday, Jan. 18, 2013
Shelby 13 9 8 16 — 46
E. Rutherford 10 9 13 11 — 43
SHELBY (46) — DeVoe 6 2-5 16, Cannon 4 1-5 9, Falls 3 2-2 8, Clark 3 1-1 7, Wray 3 0-0 6, Dorsey 0 0-2 0. Totals: 19 6-15 46.
EAST RUTHERFORD (43) —Waldroup-Rodriguez 5 0-0 14, Boykins 3 2-6 9, Watkins 2 3-4 8, Hopper 2 1-2 5, Ross 2 0-0 5, Wilkins 0 2-2 2. Totals: 14 8-14 43.
3-point goals — Shelby 2 (DeVoe 2); East Rutherford 7 (Waldroup-Rodriguez 4). Rebounds — Shelby 33; East Rutherford 28. Turnovers — Shelby 16; East Rutherford 14. Total fouls — Shelby 16; East Rutherford 16. Fouled out — Shelby, Falls. Technical fouls — none.