by Tim Miller
The Cedarville Yellow Jackets (10-10, 5-8 G-MAC) suffered a gut-wrenching loss to Malone on Tuesday night in overtime, 84-82. The loss drops Cedarville to ninth place in the conference, leaving them out of the G-MAC Conference Tournament at this point.
Four players reached double figures in scoring for Cedarville. Those four combined for an 88 percent share in the Yellow Jackets’ scoring.
Sophomore guard Colton Linkous scored 20 points to lead the Yellow Jackets. Freshman forward Conner TenHove added 19 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Evan Kraatz had 18 points and junior guard Grant Zawadzki contributed 15 points and five assists.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our guys tonight,” head coach Pat Estepp said. “They showed a tremendous amount of heart and character. Four our guys to show up and compete the way they did against a team that’s pretty hot right now just shows our fight and toughness.”
Malone took the momentum early, reaching a 9-4 lead with 16:03 left in the first half. Cedarville went scoreless for the next seven minutes, and that allowed Malone to increase its lead to 17-8. TenHove broke the cold stretch for the Yellow Jackets at the 8:42 mark.
The Yellow Jackets and Pioneers traded baskets for the next five minutes, and Cedarville’s offense finally began to roll, scoring on two of three possessions. With 3:56 left, Cedarville still trailed 22-15.
Junior forward Robert Okoro used a strong finish from the left block to add to the Cedarville point total and was fouled on the shot. He missed the free throw, but on the next possession, Linkous netted a triple from the left wing to bring the Yellow Jackets within two at 22-20.
The Yellow Jackets closed the half on a 20-4 run which allowed them to take the lead and keep it into halftime. After 20 minutes, Cedarville led 28-24. Linkous led all scorers with eight points and also handled two rebounds. Zawadzki tallied six points, three rebounds and two assists.
The slow offenses shot poorly in the first half, as Cedarville finished at 46 percent from the field, while Malone shot a putrid 36 percent.
Cedarville jumped to an 8-2 run in the first two-and-a-half minutes to open the second half. The Yellow Jackets made each of their first three shots of the half during the run. With 17:29 on the clock, Malone called a timeout trailing 36-26.
Cedarville’s 45-30 lead was cut down after Malone converted 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions. With 12:39 remaining, Cedarville called a timeout with a 45-36 lead. Malone made two more triples to assert itself back into the game.
Malone tied the game at the 4:53 mark after fighting for the lead for nine minutes. With 3:28 on the clock, Malone fired and made a triple to take the lead, 60-58. Cedarville called a timeout after the shot.
Another triple by Malone with 2:27 left gave the Pioneers a 63-58 lead.
With 32 seconds left, TenHove converted an and-one to pull the Yellow Jackets within three. After Malone made one of two free throws, they led 67-65.
Kraatz attempted a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left, missed, and got his own rebound. He then hit a mid-range jumper with 0.2 seconds on the clock to tie the game.
The game was sent to overtime tied at 67.
With 3:24 left in overtime, Kraatz came up clutch again, this time swishing a deep triple to five Cedarville a 73-72 lead.
Malone took the lead back with 1:22 left, and Linkous followed with two converted free throws. With 1:01 left, Cedarville trailed 78-77.
Linkous swished a triple with four seconds left to bring the Yellow Jackets within one, 83-82.
Malone was able to hold onto the lead to close the game. Zawadzki missed what would have been the game-winning triple at the buzzer.
Estepp attributed slow rotations and miscommunications on the defensive end as a major reason to why the Yellow Jackets dropped the game tonight.
“We had some crucial turnovers there late,” Estepp said. “We lost their shooters in our zone and we didn’t get out on guys quick enough.”
Estepp also said that the team played well enough to win. Estepp said if the team plays at that level for the rest of the season, they should be just fine down the stretch.
The Yellow Jackets played their first game without senior guard Patrick Bain, who tore his ACL late in his last game against Ohio Valley. Bain averaged 21.7 points per game and was in the top-five in the G-MAC in points per game, field goal percentage and free throw percentage.
Cedarville will head south for games at Kentucky Wesleyan on Thursday and at Trevecca on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets took down Trevecca but lost to Kentucky Wesleyan in early December.
Tim Miller is a sophomore marketing major and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys having a baby face, sipping Dunkin Donuts coffee and striving to be the optimal combination of Dwight Schrute and Ron Swanson.