by Tim Miller
The G-MAC leading Cedarville Lady Jackets have a date with the Findlay Oilers on Thursday, the second and final of the season. Cedarville outlasted Findlay 74-70 on Dec. 1.
“We took care of the ball well and found the open player,” head coach Kari Hoffman said of Cedarville’s first win over Findlay. “We made them uncomfortable offensively by switching up defenses and our press did good things for us.”
The Lady Jackets (16-3, 12-1 G-MAC) enter the game on a roll, with six straight wins under their belt. Cedarville is coming off a 99-60 demoralization of Ohio Valley, a game in which many starters saw a reduction in minutes.
The Oilers (13-5, 9-4 G-MAC) may have lost any chance of hosting the G-MAC Tournament after receiving a beatdown from Kentucky Wesleyan on Saturday, 72-54.
While Cedarville enjoyed a 24-6 season last year, the Lady Jackets were swept by Findlay. This season, however, the Oilers have failed to play up to tough competition. Findlay has lost all three of its matchups to the top three teams in the G-MAC, and still must take on Kentucky Wesleyan and Walsh once more this year after dancing with Cedarville.
Findlay is led by senior forward Anna Hintz. Hintz leads the G-MAC in scoring, rebounding, and free throw percentage, and is second in the conference in field goal percentage. In her first matchup with Cedarville, Hintz had her way at times, scoring 21 points and adding eight rebounds.
The Lady Jackets enjoy the most balanced attack in the G-MAC. Their roster features four players who average double figures in scoring, which is more than any other team in the conference. Senior guard Baylee Bennett averages 13.2 points per game and is second in all of Division II in 3-point percentage at 49.6 percent.
As a team, the Lady Jackets are third nationally in 3-point shooting (40.0 percent), fourth in free throw shooting (79 percent), and 15th in field goal percentage (46.5 percent).
Perhaps the most valuable player to Cedarville is senior forward Abby Wolford. Since returning to the Lady Jackets’ rotation for the first time in two years, Wolford has averaged 12.6 points per game (second-best on team), 4.2 rebounds per game (second-best on team), and leads the team in steals with 21. Wolford has reached double figures in scoring in nine of her last 10 games, and can score with versatility, through slashing to the bucket or draining shots from deep.
A win for the Lady Jackets would further distance themselves from Findlay and nearly lock the Oilers out of contention of winning the G-MAC. From there, Cedarville would need to take care of business at Hillsdale on Saturday, before getting its shot at Kentucky Wesleyan.
The Panthers have won 11 in a row and are just a half-game behind Cedarville in a virtual tie for the G-MAC lead. The game could end up deciding who gets to host the 2019 G-MAC Tournament if each team handles their opponents this week.
Hoffman said that even though the Lady Jackets could be playing their best basketball of the season, there’s still work to be done.
Prediction: The Lady Jackets are on fire while the Oilers are reeling. The sense of urgency should be equal for each, as Cedarville must win the games its supposed to, while Findlay’s hopes of hosting the conference tournament lie in this game.
The Lady Jackets’ balanced attack makes them one of the hardest teams to grade in the Midwest Region. Bennett, Wolford, Ashlyn Huffman, and Regina Hochstetler, among others, allow Cedarville to spread the floor like few teams can.
The biggest concern for Cedarville is its lack of depth. Freshman guard Emily Chapman (7.5 points per game and 23.9 minutes per game) will miss her third game in a row. Freshman forward Lexi Moore (17 games played) will be inactive due to an injury during practice this week. If forwards Cameron Peek and Alli Roh get in foul trouble, Cedarville will be extremely thin in the front court.
Findlay shot the ball exceptionally well in the first matchup and put pressure on the Lady Jackets’ offense. However, Cedarville suffered just six turnovers. The Lady Jackets are now well set in their rotations, which makes them even better than on the first day of December.
Findlay’s homecourt will be crucial in keeping the Oilers in the game. The lack of depth for Cedarville should keep this game closer, but the Lady Jackets’ free throw success and the Oilers’ ineptitude from the charity stripe may prove costly.
Final score: Cedarville 75, Findlay 72
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.