by Joshua Stevens
Cedarville had much to celebrate on Senior Night, as they handled their business against Lake Erie on Thursday, winning 72-52. The win keeps the Jackets (16-10, 13-5) at fourth in the G-MAC standings, with the conference tournament quickly approaching.
Seniors Grant Zawadzki, Robert Okoro and Gabriel Portillo stepped onto the floor at Callan Athletic Center for their final regular season home game, and each of them contributed to the Jackets’ big win. Zawadzki scored 13 points and pulled down seven boards, Okoro chalked up five points and seven rebounds, and Portillo added two points and a steal.
“Those guys are a special group,” said head coach Pat Estepp. “Because of their unselfishness, we have a chance to have a special end to our season.”
Though the spotlight was on the seniors, two freshmen also stood out on the court. Quinton Green and Branden Maughmer scored the first 13 points for the Jackets. Maughmer scored the first five, then Green took over with a couple of highlight plays, including a steal and transition dunk that had the crowd at Callan rocking. The duo finished with 16 points each.
The first half was close throughout, with the Jackets finally stretching their lead to 12 after a Zawadzki 3-pointer with 43 seconds left. They would go into the locker room up 33-24.
“They’re a really good ball club,” Estepp said of the Storm. “But I couldn’t be prouder of our guys. We were locked in.”
The Jackets completely took over in the second half. Though the Storm dwindled the lead down to five with over 14 minutes left, the Jackets quickly responded. Their lead grew steadily, and another three by Zawadzki put the Jackets up 66-44 with just under five minutes left, giving them their largest lead of the night. The seniors exited the game with under a minute on the clock, as the Jackets cruised to the 20-point win.
After the win, the seniors took some time to reflect on their careers at Cedarville.
“Being on the court, seeing the crowd, making a bucket, to finish that way was very emotional,” Portillo said.
“Honestly, I’m going to miss this team,” Okoro said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
“I’m proud of the way our seniors have led this program,” Zawadzki said. “To turn the tide this year has been huge for us.”
Even with the emotions of Senior Night, the Jackets are still looking to finish the season strong, as their final two games against Davis & Elkins and Alderson Broaddus come on the road.
“We need to stay focused, and look at what’s in front of us,” Zawadzki said.
“They’re two tough teams,” Estepp said. “We’ve got to find that energy down deep within, because there’s a lot on the line.”
Joshua Stevens is a junior journalism major and sports writer for Cedars. He enjoys rooting for the Tennessee Titans and listening to old-school music.