by Tim Miller
The Cedarville Lady Jackets (4-1, 1-0 G-MAC) pulled away from the G-MAC preseason favorite Hillsdale Chargers (1-5, 0-1 G-MAC) to earn their fourth straight victory on Thursday night, winning 76-60. The meeting was the first since Hillsdale clipped Cedarville in the G-MAC semifinals last season, ending what looked to be a promising season for the Lady Jackets.
Senior guard Baylee Bennett led the Lady Jackets in scoring with 16 points and made all three of her attempts from behind the arc. Senior forward Abby Wolford and freshman guard Emily Chapman each chipped in 12 points. As a team, Cedarville sot 88 percent (15-17) from the free throw line.
While Cedarville came away with a relatively anti-climatic win, the first half did not seem to point in their favor.
“It was a tale of two halves,” head coach Kari Hoffman said. “We struggled a little bit in the first half playing with urgency. The girls made a great adjustment coming out in the third quarter.”
Cedarville uncharacteristically struggled to open the game and trailed 11-5 five minutes into the game. The Lady Jackets were just 2-6 through the first five minutes from the field.
Out of the first media timeout, Cedarville frazzled the Chargers with a full-court press, something the Lady Jackets hadn’t shown in the past. It kept Hillsdale from scoring on its possession, but the Lady Jackets came up short on the ensuing possession.
The Lady Jackets utilized an energized defense to keep Hillsdale off the board for the next three minutes, which allowed them to cut their deficit to 11-10.
Bennett swished a triple with 1:15 remaining to give Cedarville its first lead of the game at 15-13, and the Lady Jackets closed the quarter with a 17-15 advantage.
The Lady Jackets improved their shooting to close the quarter and were 50 percent from both the field and the 3-point line after one quarter. They also forced six turnovers in the frame.
The teams traded buckets to open the second, and the Lady Jackets sprinkled in their full-court press yet again. However, Cedarville was unable to reset in the halfcourt, which allowed Hillsdale to take a bucket. With 4:45 left, Hillsdale led 28-26.
Cedarville suffered two turnovers in a row late in the second, but they were able to force enough stops defensively to stay right in the game. The Chargers made two triples to close the half which pushed them ahead for their largest lead of the game with a 41-35 margin.
Chapman was perfect from the field and put up eight points in the first half. Junior forward Cameron Peek was one point shy of her season-high after one half with seven and pulled away five rebounds.
Hillsdale shot 50 percent or higher in the first half from the field and from behind the arc. The Lady Jackets were outrebounded by four and Cedarville’s season leading scorer Ashlyn Huffman was held without a bucket in the first 20 minutes.
In the first half alone, there was 12 lead changes and seven ties.
Huffman made a pair of free throws to get herself on the board and provide Cedarville with its first points of the second half. Senior guard Regina Hochstetler made two of her own free throws for Cedarville’s next points, but with 6:08 left the Lady Jackets still trailed 46-41.
With 3:28 left, Chapman made her way to the paint for a layup to tie the game at 47.
Wolford went off for nine points in the final two minutes of the quarter to spring Cedarville to a 58-48 lead. Wolford was 3-3 from the field and made two triples during the run.
Bennett had five points in two consecutive possessions to push Cedarville to a 66-53 lead. The buckets forced Hillsdale to call a timeout with 7:14 on the clock.
The media timeout came with 3:41 remaining, and Cedarville owned a 72-58 advantage. The Lady Jackets seemed to be a bucket away from effectively ending any chances Hillsdale had of taking the game.
The dagger came with 1:39 on the clock, as Bennett laid in a right-handed bucket to put Cedarville up 74-60. The Lady Jackets called a timeout after forcing a stop with 1:12 left, and Cedarville was able to cruise to the dub from there.
Hillsdale shot just 22 percent in the second half, and Bennett said the team’s ability to lock down on defense in the final 20 minutes was a huge key to the game.
“I was just really proud of my team and the way they came out in the second half,” Bennett said. “Defense was our focus coming out in the second half. We knew we had to come out and pressure the ball.
The Lady Jackets get just one day of rest before taking on Findlay at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Findlay tied for first in the G-MAC preseason poll with Hillsdale, and sits at 3-0 this season.
Tim Miller is a junior marketing major and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys having a baby face, knowing too much about supplemental insurance, and striving to perfect the optimal combination of Dwight Schrute and Ron Swanson.