The seniors on the Cedarville men’s basketball team gave the fans a performance to remember. On a frigid Thursday night, the Yellow Jackets used blistering three-point shooting and hustle to beat the Salem International Tigers, 103-72, in front of a crowd of 1,113.
This being the last home game of the regular season, seniors Jason Cuffee, Marcus Reineke, Leighton Smith, and Connor Scott were introduced before the game.
At the start, Cedarville jumped out to an early lead. Senior swing guard Jason Cuffee scored 16 in the opening 20 minutes of play. Cedarville’s full court pressure caused major problems for the Tigers, who finished with 28 turnovers on the night. The Jackets took advantage of the abundance of errors, scoring 43 points off those turnovers. They pushed the tempo and looked to be on their way to an easy win. The Tigers fought back late in the half, however, to make it a 12-point game going into halftime, 47-35. The highlight of the first half was a dunk by sophomore forward Easton Bazzoli, who stole a Tiger pass, took it down the court and threw it down over a defender.
In the second half, after trading some buckets, Cedarville began to extend the lead. They moved the ball in the half court to break down Salem’s zone defense and continued to score in transition. Cedarville was active in their half-court defense, keeping Salem from getting into a rhythm. Head coach Pat Estepp said he saw good things on both sides of the ball.
“Offensively, I thought we were very unselfish,” he said. “Defensively, we were as active as we had been all year. Not only did we have 17 steals and force 28 turnovers, but we also had 25 deflections.”
The 28 forced turnovers were a season-high, and on the offensive end, the team’s 16 three-pointers matched a season best.
The Jackets were led in scoring by their seniors. Cuffee had a game-high and career-high 24 points, and Reineke added 22. Leighton had the third highest total with his 14 and added five rebounds and four steals. As for the rest of the team, Bazzoli had a good game all around, with 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and six steals.
The fourth senior, two-sport athlete Connor Scott, played some minutes late in the game.
Sophomore Austin Pickett went down hard late in the second half. On a fast break, he drove into the lane. As he left his feet, an opposing player took out Pickett’s upper body and he landed hard on the back of his head. He got up for a moment but quickly went back down and had to exit the game for medical attention. The referees assessed a flagrant foul and ejected the opposing player from the game.
Cedarville improves to 11-15 overall, and 7-5 in the conference with the win. The Jackets will be travelling to play Ohio Valley in their next game on February 21st at 4:15 p.m.
Byron Brown is a junior global business major and sports reporter for Cedars. He plays for the JV basketball team here at Cedarville. His hobbies include playing sports, exercising, watching sports, eating and watching movies.