by Abigail Hintz
The Cedarville men’s basketball team (15-10, 12-5 G-MAC) clinched a spot in the G-MAC Tournament Saturday afternoon with a hardfought 86-80 victory over Tiffin University. Freshmen Yellow Jackets led the way for Cedarville, scoring 65 of the team’s 85 points.
Freshman guard Branden Maughmer led his team with 25 points, shooting 50 percent from the field and 100 percent from the free throw line. Freshman guard Quinton Green followed closely behind with 17 points and six rebounds.
Freshman center Kollin Van Horn had a game of momentum more than stats. Though he followed Green closely with 13 points, he was most impactful on the defensive end. He ended with six blocks, all of which came at pivotal points of the match and brought the crowd to its feet every time.
A shocking absence from the stat board was sophomore forward Conner TenHove. TenHove has had a standout season and hasn’t been scoreless once, until Saturday.
“If you had told me [TenHove] was going to be scoreless, I would’ve said we would have a tough time winning,” said head coach Pat Estepp. “I thought our guys really responded well, especially some guys off the bench. I’m just proud of our guys, not just our young guys.”
The first half was a tale of two teams for the Jackets. They seemed to have it all under control coming into the match, taking a quick 5-0 lead. After five minutes of play, Tiffin took its first lead. The Jackets could not get back on top, though they were never down more than six points. They struggled to rebound and were slow in transition, giving Tiffin eight turnovers in the first half.
It wasn’t until the seventeenth minute when Maughmer made a layup on a breakaway to tie it up, followed by a Van Horn layup that finally broke the Jackets’ slump giving them a 36-34 lead. The 1,604 fans that packed Callan were back in the game at this point, giving Cedarville the momentum they needed to finish strong. They pulled out three huge blocks on the defensive end, two from Van Horn and another from Green. On offense, the Jackets ran down the clock leaving just enough time for Maughmer to put in a layup to take his team into the locker room up 40-37.
Coming out of the locker room, the Dragons were quick to take back what had been theirs all along. It took the Jackets over four minutes to get any action. Once they did, it was a game of back and forth.
Down four with nine minutes to play, the Jackets needed some magic which came through junior guard Colton Linkous, who put down a 3-point field goal that put the team within one of the Dragons. Linkous led the team in rebounds on the night with eight, snagging five on offense alone.
The lead never stayed with one team too long, until a final tie at 70 with four minutes to play started the Jackets on their final push. Maughmer took a 3-pointer and layup back-to-back to make it 78-71, and the crowd was officially in it for the win.
From there it was smooth sailing for Cedarville, who put Tiffin away 86-80.
The Jackets hope to keep this momentum going with more big crowds as they finish out their regular season.
Linkous was very thankful for the full stands. “The crowd was amazing. Anytime we can get a big crowd like that, our performance always increases,” he said.
Though a playoff spot is a positive thing for the Jackets, they are now completely focused on Lake Erie (15-9, 10-6 G-MAC) who will make the trip to Callan Thursday, Feb. 21. Redemption is at stake, after the Storm beat the Jackets in overtime 91-87 in January. This will be the Jackets’ last home game of the regular season.
Abigail Hintz is a freshman journalism major and sports writer for Cedars. She loves sending people GIFs, reading books and watching way more soccer than the average person.