by Tim Miller
The Cedarville Lady Jackets are a step closer to winning the 2018 G-MAC Tournament after wiping out Lake Erie in the first round of the tournament on Thursday night, 80-61. The Lady Jackets completed a three-game season sweep of the Storm and never trailed in their win on Thursday.
Junior guard Baylee Bennett lit it up from the field, shooting 9-10 and scoring 24 points. A member of the G-MAC first-team, Bennett handed out four assists on the night as well. Even after having one of the best shooting performances of her career, Bennett emphasized that the team must not dwell on its successful outing.
“We have to focus on the next game, that’s our mindset,” Bennett said. “[We have to] forget this past game and forget what happened and move onto the next.”
Senior forward Breanne Watterworth scored 14 points on 5-6 shooting and swiped two balls from Lake Erie. Freshman guard Ashlyn Huffman turned in 12 points and five assists. Senior forward Taylor Buckley came off the bench to score 12 points and didn’t miss a shot, going 6-6 from the field.
Head coach Kari Hoffman, who was named G-MAC Coach of the Year last night in just her second season at the helm, said she was delighted to see her squad come out firing after a long layoff.
“I’m really pleased with our effort tonight,” Hoffman said. “Sitting and preparing for this all week, you just get anxious wondering what team is going to show up. It was a really good first game and I’m proud of how we started.”
Cedarville scored five points in the opening minute to leap to a 5-0 lead with 9:01 left. Bennett opened the scoring with a triple from another zip code, while Watterworth scored the next two points for the Lady Jackets.
After Lake Erie made two free throws, Bennett yet again splashed a quick 3-pointer, putting the Lady Jackets up 8-2 with 8:05 remaining. Bennett made her third attempt in a row to start the game with 4:48 on the clock, putting Cedarville up 15-5. After the shot, Lake Erie called its first timeout.
Cedarville continued to clamp Lake Erie’s offense, allowing just three points in the next six minutes. With 2:08 left, Lake Erie finally ended a scoring drought with a 2-pointer, but trailed 19-8.
The Lady Jackets dominated the first quarter and led 24-8 after 10 minutes. Bennett scored nine points and didn’t miss a shot. Freshman guard Stevie Johnting added five points on 2-2 shooting and two rebounds.
Cedarville blocked multiple shots to open the second and used strong rebounding on the offensive glass to score six points in a minute. With 7:44 left, the Lady Jackets held a commanding 30-8 advantage.
With 5:47 left, Huffman made a layup to give Cedarville its first 20-plus-point lead, giving the Lady Jackets a 33-12 margin.
Cedarville continued to pick apart the Storm and led 41-19 at halftime. Bennett finished the half with 11 points on 4-5 shooting. Buckley shot 4-4 for eight points, all of which came in the second period.
Cedarville dominated in field goal shooting, making 64 percent of its shots. Its defense may have been even better, allowing Lake Erie just five field goals in the entire half, as the Storm made 22 percent of their shots. The Lady Jackets made half of their shots from deep, while Lake Erie was 0-7. Cedarville also dominated the battle in the paint with 20 points from up close, while the Storm scored just two.
Cedarville subbed with fury in the third, allowing its starters to stay fresh with an anticipated three games in three days upcoming. Even with the rotation in flux, the Lady Jackets remained successful. Cedarville flirted with a 30-point lead for much of the period, but was never able to reach the milestone.
The Lady Jackets led 66-40 after three frames. Bennett added 10 points to push her total to 21, while Huffman scored seven to increase her tally to 12 points.
Watterworth made a pair of free throws early in the fourth to give Cedarville a 30-point cushion. The shots gave the Lady Jackets a 71-40 lead with 8:47 on the clock.
Cedarville cruised in the fourth quarter to take a wire-to-wire win over Lake Erie. Watterworth scored six points in the final period and Cedarville emptied its bench to let the starters rest for much of the fourth.
The Lady Jackets shot 61 percent from the field and 44 percent from behind the arc in total.
The Lady Jackets will play the winner of No. 5 Hillsdale (16-10, 14-8 G-MAC) and No. 4 Ursuline (19-9, 16-6 G-MAC) tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. Cedarville beat each team twice over the course of the regular season.
“I thought the team came out and played really well for our first game in the tournament,” Bennett said. “We came ready and we came composed. It was really cool to see everyone get involved.”
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.