by Tim Miller
The Cedarville Yellow Jackets surrendered their first half lead to the No. 14 Findlay Oilers and never got it back, losing 81-68 on Thursday night. The Yellow Jackets’ loss is a huge blow to their hopes of hosting the conference tournament, as they fall two games out of first place.
Just six players scored for the Yellow Jackets (12-9, 9-4 G-MAC) in the loss. Cedarville was out-rebounded by three and lost the turnover margin by six.
Sophomore Conner TenHove led the Yellow Jackets in scoring with 16 points and made all four of his free throws. Senior guard Grant Zawadzki was right behind TenHove with 15 points and four assists. Freshman Branden Maughmer had 13 points and nine rebounds and freshman Kollin Van Horn totaled 11 points and eight boards.
Cedarville scored on four of its first five possessions and led 15-6 with 14:38 left in the first. TenHove swirled home a 3-pointer to give Cedarville the nine-point margin, and Findlay called a timeout directly after the shot.
The Yellow Jackets continued to control the game and after owning a comfortable advantage for the next 10 minutes, Cedarville finally took the next step. Van Horn scooped in a layup to put Cedarville up 29-14, which doubled Findlay’s total with just over five minutes left.
The Oilers fought back in the next couple minutes, and a strong two-handed slam brought Findlay within six with under two minutes left. With 1:12 left, head coach Pat Estepp called to stop the momentum into the half.
While Cedarville held an advantage, its lead felt fragile at halftime. The Yellow Jackets led 31-27
Cedarville shut down Findlay in terms of field goal percentage, as the Oilers made just 24 percent of their shots in the half. The Yellow Jackets also dominated on the glass, grabbing eight more rebounds.
Van Horn had 10 points on 5-7 shooting and five rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
Findlay came out strong to start the second half and took a 33-31 lead two minutes in.
The Oilers continued to pour it on Cedarville and took a 10-point lead with 12 minutes left, 50-40. Cedarville answered with five straight points to cut the lead to 50-45 in the next minute.
Findlay again gave itself a cushion and continued to gain space from Cedarville. As the Oilers’ lead ballooned to over 10, the Yellow Jackets called a timeout.
Cedarville didn’t have enough to get back in the game, and after a triple by Findlay with 4:40 remaining, the Yellow Jackets trailed 69-55. Cedarville called a timeout, but the Yellow Jackets would never get back into the game.
The Yellow Jackets travel to Hillsdale on Saturday for their second matchup of the year. Cedarville fell to Hillsdale on Nov. 29, 74-66. The Chargers are tied with Findlay for first in the conference, so it will likely be another taxing game for the Yellow Jackets.