East Rutherford (N.C.) had a couple of crucial comebacks, but in the end both came up short in a 51-48 loss to Rufus King on Wednesday in the opening game of the Beach Ball Classic at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
Junior guard Devonte Boykins returned to the court for his most significant minutes yet this season for the Cavaliers (9-2) after a knee injury over the summer, and brought with him the tenacity and leadership he has shown since helping lead his team to a N.C. Class AA state title as a freshman.
The Generals (7-0) led by as many as 12 points in the second half before East Rutherford began to slowly nip away at the lead when Boykins came off the bench with just over 14 minutes left.
Boykins’ 3-pointer with 7:34 left cut the gap to six points, and Travis Waldroup-Rodriguez brought the Cavaliers within three points twice, first with a 3-pointer with 5:50 left, then with a lay-up with 1:04 left.
Waldroup-Rodriguez tied the game at 46 with his third 3-pointer of the game, and Boykins had a chance to put East Rutherford ahead when he drove toward the rim, but instead of making the basket and drawing a foul, he was whistled for a charge, his fifth foul of the game.
“That charge late, oh my God,” Cavaliers coach Brad LeVine said. “That probably was the back breaker right there, because he ties it up if he makes the basket.”
The Cavaliers had a final shot to tie the game, but Roddric Ross slipped while attempting a 3-pointer from the top of the arc.
“We got it right where we wanted. They kind of drifted and they didn’t defend it very well. I thought we had a chance to make that play,” LeVine said.
Boykins, who had just one assist in the first half, finished with six points, four assists, four rebounds, two steals and two turnovers.
LaVine said in terms of health and effectiveness, Boykins is “still probably about half, but he still got it to the rack when he wanted to.”
Boykins said his ACL, which he tore in June while playing for his AAU team, is “pretty much healed,” and that he expects to progressively get more minutes each game. He did admit that his fitness is not where he would like.
“It was kind of tough there at the end,” Boykins said. “I got tired. I’m going to start running once we get back off of Christmas break.”
Austin Malone-Mitchell had a game-best 19 points and had eight rebounds for Rufus King, Jamell Posey had 10 points and Montrell Hobbs added nine rebounds.
Waldroup-Rodriguez led East Rutherford with 14 points, including three 3-pointers, and Ross added eight points and nine rebounds.
• RUFUS KING (51) – Austin Malone-Mitchell 19, Jamell Posey 10, Chris Howell 9, Montrell Hobbs 5, Curtis Weathers 6, Diamante Freeman 2
• EAST RUTHERFORD (48) – Travis Waldroup-Rodriguez 14, Donald Wilkins 8, T.J. Watkins 5, Jarvis Hopper 7, Roddric Ross 8, Devonte Boykins 6• Halftime: Rufus King 26-16. 3-point goals: Rufus King 4 (Malone-Mitchell 2, Weathers 2); East Rutherford 10 (Waldroup-Rodriguez 3, Wilkins 2, Watkins, Hopper, Ross 2, Boykins). Team fouls: Rufus King 12, East Rutherford 16. Fouled out: Boykins. Technical fouls: None.
• Records: East Rutherford 9-2, Rufus King 7-0.