1,375 pajama-clad fans packed into the Callan Athletic Center Friday night to watch the Cedarville men’s basketball team win its home opener against Ohio Dominican in a close game, 90-86.
Due to the G-MAC volleyball tournament, the game tipped off at 11:00 p.m. and head coach Pat Estepp made it a pajama night. The fans were on their feet for most of the game, only sitting down during timeouts.
Estepp said the crowd had a big part in the win.
“The crowd was phenomenal,” he said. “You don’t play at 1:00 in the morning and have any energy without a crowd, and they were outstanding. I don’t know if we win that game without them.”
Senior guard Marcus Reineke led the team with 24 points and four assists. Sophomore forward Lane Vander Hulst added 15 points. Three other Jackets finished the night in double figures. Senior forward Jason Cuffee had six rebounds to lead the team.
The Jackets played at a high tempo to make up for their lack of size. Their full court press had mixed results. They would get an occasional steal, but more often than not, the press led to easy baskets for the Panthers.
The score was even for the first eight minutes, but then the Jackets went four minutes without scoring a point and found themselves down seven. For the last eight minutes of the half, however, Cedarville went on a 19-10 run and went into halftime with a 39-37 lead.
The Panthers started out the second half on a 8-0 run, but the Jackets answered with five quick points.
The Jackets shot 60 percent from the field, but they struggled from the free throw line all night, shooting 48 percent from the stripe. For comparison, they also shot 48 percent from behind the arc.
The Jackets had Freshman Patrick Bain show off his athleticism, driving through the lane and throwing down a vicious slam that got the crowd going. Senior Leighton Smith impressed with a nice chase down block, erasing the Panthers’ fast-break layup attempt.
A 10-0 run midway through the second half put the Jackets up, 62-56, but from then on, the game was close, with Cedarville never leading by more than five points.
With 5:40 remaining, sophomore J.C. Faubion fell to the ground and lay there for a full minute before getting up and walking off the court on his own. He returned a few minutes later, only to leave again.
“(J.C.) will be okay,” Estepp said. “He just rolled his ankle coming out. We need him, because he’s our energy guy, he does a lot of things well.”
In the final minute, the Jackets put their free throw woes behind them and made eight of ten free throws to seal the game down the stretch.
Estepp said he thought the team played unselfishly, and that he could see the improvement made by the returning players, especially the sophomores. He did point out that the team still needed to get better.
“We’ve got to improve defensively,” he said. “We want to press, and we know we’re going to give up some things at times, but we gave up too many shots in the paint during stretches, giving up too many layups, and we fouled too much.”
Reineke said he thought the win was a team effort.
“I thought everyone came out tonight and played as a team,” he said. “Everyone stepped up when they needed to, and we got a win.”
Cedarville (1-0) plays their next game at home against Ashland on Saturday, Nov. 15, at 8:00 p.m.
Jonathan Gallardo is a junior journalism major and sports editor for Cedars. He loves playing basketball and quoting Napoleon Dynamite. He hopes one day to play in the NBA.