By Tim Miller
The Cedarville Lady Jackets (21-5, 16-4 G-MAC) pulled away from the Lake Erie Storm to win on Saturday afternoon, 75-70. The game was a tale of two halves for Cedarville, but the Lady Jackets successfully got back to their usual ways in the second half to take control of the game and topple Lake Erie.
Freshman guard Ashlyn Huffman led the Lady Jackets for a career-high 22 points and dished out five assists. Huffman was also 9-10 from the free throw line. Huffman said her comfort on the floor through continuing to get more experience has helped her continue to be successful in her first year.
“I feel confident and comfortable out there,” Huffman said. “I know how everyone plays now so that’s just helped me a lot.”
Junior guard Baylee Bennett got her usual dose from behind the arc, firing in 5-10 for 15 points. Bennett also handed out five assists. Senior forward Breanne Watterworth and senior guard Kaitlyn Holm were each one rebound away from a double-double, as Watterworth scored 13 points and corralled nine rebounds, while Holm added 11 points and nine rebounds.
Head coach Kari Hoffman said she was well aware that her team would get Lake Erie’s best shot after the Lady Jackets took over first place in the G-MAC thanks to a win over Ursuline on Thursday.
“We talked a lot about how tough this game was going to be,” Hoffman said. “These girls are tired and I knew this would be a tough game. We knew Lake Erie would come in here ready to play.”
The Lady Jacket defense started slowly and allowed Lake Erie to score eight points in the first three and a half minutes. Cedarville’s offense was strong as usual, but still trailed 8-7 four minutes into the game.
Lake Erie managed to fight off Cedarville’s early comebacks through scoring off second chances. The Storm recorded four offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone and added six points off Cedarville’s turnovers.
After one frame, Cedarville trailed Lake Erie 18-15. Watterworth totaled seven points in the quarter and Bennett scored six.
After nailing a 3-pointer to close the first, Bennett hit another to start the second quarter. Cedarville’s offense sputtered but seemed to begin to gain traction in the second. Its defense, however, continued to struggle, which allowed the Storm to seemingly score at will.
With 4:57 left, Watterworth traveled around the cup to finish with her right hand to give the Lady Jackets two. Cedarville brought the game within one possession, trailing 25-23. Bennett mailed in a trifecta on the Lady Jackets’ next possession, but still trailed 27-26.
Bennett delivered an assist to freshman guard Stevie Johnting with 2:58 remaining, which made the margin just one point at 30-29. Lake Erie continued to play pesky basketball and fought off Cedarville’s comebacks, taking a 33-29 lead with 2:12 left.
Lake Erie scored eight of the final 10 points of the half and led 38-31 after two frames. Bennett scored 12 points and dished out two assists and Watterworth added nine points and four rebounds.
Lake Erie came down with an absurd 14 offensive rebounds in the first half and had 11 second-chance points. Cedarville was out-rebounded in total 27-14 in the first half.
Cedarville opened the third quarter by scoring seven of the first nine points of the frame. Huffman scored three of those points with a triple that allowed Cedarville to gain momentum to open the half.
Huffman tied the game at 44 with 4:39 left in the quarter with two free throws. With 4:18 remaining, senior forward Taylor Buckley put the Lady Jackets up by two with a layup. She then followed with another layup on the next possession and converted her and-one free throw, giving Cedarville a 49-44 lead.
“It was a tough win,” Huffman said. “At half, we were really struggling, especially on rebounding. But in the third quarter we figured it out and got some plays going.”
Bennett stepped back for a triple late in the shot clock with 1:53 on the clock to put Cedarville up 52-46. Bennett grabbed an offensive rebound on the next possession which led to another Buckley layup, and Cedarville finally looked to have the game under control.
After three quarters, Cedarville led 54-48. Buckley scored seven points and pulled down five rebounds in the period.
Huffman splashed a triple from the left corner and followed with a free throw on the next possession to push the Lady Jackets’ lead to 10. Cedarville called a timeout with 6:32 on the clock, holding a 63-53 lead.
Holm furthered Cedarville’s lead by scoring five straight points for the Lady Jackets. With 4:27 remaining, Cedarville owned a 68-57 advantage.
Lake Erie scored seven unanswered to close the gap to 73-70 with 28 seconds left. The Lady Jackets were able to hold onto the lead to close the game for their second straight win.
Cedarville remains at home to end its season, with games against Davis & Elkins (11-15, 7-13 G-MAC) on Thursday and Alderson Broaddus (6-17, 4-16 G-MAC) on Saturday to close the season. The Lady Jackets continue to control their own destiny and will host the conference tournament if they win out.
“I’m just really proud of their grit and determination to continue to fight down the stretch,” Hoffman said. “We’re going into our last week of our regular season right where we want to be.”
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.