On Sunday, Cedarville’s women’s basketball team received an at-large bid to the NCAA Division II tournament for the first time in the school’s history.
Head coach Kirk Martin said he was pleased with how the season has played out.
“It’s just been a real enjoyable season, and it’s one that you look back upon,” he said, “and there are just special seasons that fall that way for reasons that you can’t figure out, and this is certainly one of them.”
The Yellow Jackets enter the tournament with a record of 27-3. Martin said the team faced a lot of pressure during conference play this year.
“Since January 1, we knew we basically could not lose more than one game to get into the tournament,” he said.
The team accomplished just that, going 15-1 in the G-MAC. However, as the conference tournament began, the Lady Jackets’ spot in the national tournament was not guaranteed, despite their being ranked 22nd in the country. They were ranked 10th in their region, but only the top eight teams would advance to the national tournament.
The Jackets did their part by beating Central State, 60-53, and Kentucky Wesleyan, 63-52, to win the G-MAC tournament. Senior Raegan Ryan led the team, scoring 45 points in those two games, including 26 in the championship.
The Jackets did not play particularly well in the tournament, but Martin said the team was able to overcome this with their effort.
“If you play hard, you can stay in there, and that’s kind of what we did,” he said. “We did make some big shots when we needed to, which helped us, but we never came close to our scoring average either game.”
The two teams ranked ahead of Cedarville lost their games, opening the door for the Jackets to make history. On Sunday night, the Jackets found out that they received an at-large bid as the eighth seed in the Midwest Regional tournament.
Martin said that at the beginning of the season, he did not see the team making it this far, partly because of the team’s youth, but he said the players have meshed well, regardless of age and experience.
“We’ve had great junior and senior leadership who’ve been accepting of freshmen on the floor,” he said. “That’s not an easy thing to do sometimes. So that tells you the quality of the upperclassmen, it also tells you the quality of the freshmen. They’ve done well together.”
The team will travel to Houghton, Michigan, to face the No. 1 seed in the region, the 27-2 Michigan Tech Huskies. They play on Friday, March 13, at 5 p.m. on the Huskies’ home court.
The Jackets have some improving to do, Martin said, particularly in rebounding and handling defensive pressure, as well as shooting the ball. He also said he wants his players to play relaxed.
“They have a lot to be proud of, and we constantly push them that this isn’t enough,” he said. “We’re going to back off that a little now and just say, ‘Go play and enjoy this thing. You got us where we hardly believed we could get to, so just go play.’”
Jon Gallardo is a junior journalism major and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys reading, writing, listening to music and quoting Napoleon Dynamite. He hopes to one day play in the NBA.