by Tim Miller
The No. 1 seeded Cedarville Lady Jackets fell to the No. 5 seeded Hillsdale Chargers in the G-MAC Tournament semifinal on Friday night, 82-64. The hosting Lady Jackets shot just 35 percent from the field, while Hillsdale made 49 percent of its attempts.
“All the credit goes to Hillsdale,” G-MAC Coach of the Year Kari Hoffman said. “They played their best and they were really, really good defensively. On the offensive end, they crashed extremely hard and got a bunch of offensive boards.”
Senior guard Kaitlyn Holm scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Freshman guard Stevie Johnting fired in 12 points on 3-6 shooting from behind the arc. Freshman guard Ashlyn Huffman and senior forward Breanne Watterworth added 10 points apiece.
Neither team could get their offenses going early on. Through the first five minutes, Cedarville made 29 percent of its shots while Hillsdale converted 33 percent of its attempts. With 4:41 left, Hillsdale led 6-4 in a low scoring affair.
Hillsdale went on an 8-0 run and made a 3-pointer with 2:02 remaining to go up 16-6. Cedarville called a quick timeout as the Lady Jackets looked slow in the first period, and the Chargers never looked back.
Huffman provided a small spark for the Lady Jackets and swished a 3-pointer after getting plenty of space to hit it with 33 seconds left. Hillsdale was able to extend its lead to close the quarter and led 21-9 after one frame.
Cedarville shot just 27 percent from the field in the first quarter and was out-rebounded 16-4 in the first period.
Hillsdale scored the first five points of the second quarter to hold a 26-9 margin. Holm made a 3-pointer with 8:05 on the clock, but the Chargers made a triple on the next possession to match it.
Defensive woes continued to plague the Lady Jackets, as they committed seven fouls through the 4:30 mark in the second. At the media timeout, Cedarville trailed 35-17 and couldn’t get its offense or defense rolling.
With 3:05 on the clock, Hillsdale made another triple to go up 38-18, it’s biggest margin at that point. The Lady Jackets couldn’t close the gap and trailed 46-26 at halftime.
Holm had nine points and five rebounds after 20 minutes. Cedarville’s leading active scorer, Baylee Bennett, had just two points and was 0-5 from the field. Breanne Watterworth, who is the reigning G-MAC Player of the Week and has averaged 17 points per game in her last eight, had two points on two shots.
Cedarville shot just 29 percent from the field and made only 19 percent of its 3-pointers. Hillsdale lit it up from the field, converting 57 percent of its shots and half of its shots from deep. The Chargers won the rebounding battle, pulling down 25 boards compared to Cedarville’s 13.
The Lady Jackets went on a 9-2 run to close the third period, but Hillsdale still led 61-44 after three quarters. Johnting scored nine points in the quarter to create some light for the Cedarville offense.
The run seemed to give Cedarville enough momentum to keep the game tighter in the final period. With 6:23 left, Holm pulled down an offensive rebound and sent it back up for two, and Cedarville cut the lead to 67-52. Senior forward Emily Williams made two free throws on the next possession to pull the Lady Jackets within 13.
The Chargers were able to fight off Cedarville to end the game as the Lady Jackets were never able to cut the margin to less than 13.
“We couldn’t get it done early and then we got ourselves in a hole,” Hoffman said. “We made a little run in the last two quarters there, but couldn’t quite get the job done.”
The Lady Jackets await their fate in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Tournament until Sunday. Cedarville was ranked sixth in the region in the last release and must finish in the top eight in order to make it to postseason play. No. 9 ranked Wayne State and No. 10 ranked Walsh lost in their conference tournaments, so the Lady Jackets could still be protected to remain in the top eight.
“Nothing can take away what this team has done this year,” Hoffman said. “They have exceeded all our expectations. I knew we were gonna be good, but what they have been able to do with the adversity we faced has been absolutely incredible. I’m so pleased to have this season with them.”
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.