by Tim Miller
The Cedarville Lady Jackets looked to have their hands full after a difficult first quarter against Malone in the opening round of the 2019 G-MAC Tournament. However, a huge second quarter effort gave the Lady Jackets all they needed to pull away from Malone, winning 75-55. The Lady Jackets finish their season perfect at home, winning all 14 games inside Callan.
The Lady Jackets were led by sophomore guard Ashlyn Huffman’s career-high 25 points. Huffman also tied for a team-high in rebounds with seven and piled up five assists.
“There’s not another group of girls that I would want to play with,” Huffman said of the win. “We stuck with it and got each other going. It was a lot of fun.”
Senior forward Abby Wolford scored 22 points and made each of her seven free throw attempts. Senior guard Regina Hochstetler had 11 points.
Malone shocked the Lady Jackets early, scoring the fist five points of the game. Just over a minute into the contest, Wolford picked up her second foul, sending her to the bench for the rest of the quarter. Four minutes into the game, Malone held a surprising 10-2 margin.
Cedarville was forced to call a timeout with 4:11 left in the quarter down 17-7. The faithful Pioneer fans who traveled to the Callan Athletic Center made their presence obvious as Malone had a clear advantage, and the absence of cheerleaders and students made Callan feel unusually dead.
While Malone continued to extend its lead, Cedarville finally fought back to close the quarter. Huffman made two straight triples to close the frame, giving Cedarville life. The Lady Jackets trailed 24-14 after one period.
“That was not what we expected at first,” Huffman admitted. “They kind of punched us in the face.”
Malone shot 71 percent from the field in the quarter and 67 percent from deep. Huffman led the Lady Jackets in scoring and also had one assist.
Senior guard Regina Hochstetler sparked Cedarville with a triple, and then senior guard Baylee Bennett found freshman forward Alli Roh for a quick bucket, planting the Lady Jackets back in the game less than two minutes into the second.
The Lady Jackets would end up scoring the first 13 points of the quarter and took the lead with 5:35 left.
The remainder of the quarter was a major tug-of-war for the lead. Cedarville swelled its margin to four at one point, and a triple by Wolford with 35 ticks left allowed the Lady Jackets to take a 37-34 advantage into the locker room.
“I knew this team could find its groove and luckily they did at the start of the quarter,” head coach Kari Hoffman said. “The way they turned it around was highly impressive.”
Huffman had 10 points in the quarter for a team-high 16 at halftime, and also led the team in rebounds with four. Cedarville clamped down on Malone’s shooting, allowing the Pioneers to make just 31 percent of their attempts from the field in the second.
Wolford banged a deep 3-pointer to start the third, and the Lady Jackets’ offense was up and running per usual. Cedarville scored on its next two possessions and led 44-36 with 7:55 on the clock.
Wolford made a duo of free throws with 5:54 remaining to give Cedarville an 11-point lead, 48-37. Cedarville had clearly gripped momentum and it seemed like the Pioneers’ were swiftly sinking.
The Lady Jackets kept control of the game to close the quarter, reaching its largest lead of the game with 0.2 seconds on the clock. Wolford was fouled while attempting to heave up a triple from the opposite 3-point line, sending her to the charity stripe. The senior made all three free throws to put the Lady Jackets up 60-45.
Wolford exploded for 17 points in the quarter and made all seven of her free throws. Malone’s shooting woes continued, making just 33 percent of its attempts from the field.
Cedarville reached a 20-point lead early in the final quarter and never allowed the margin to escape double figures. Huffman reached her career-high in scoring with a triple with under two minutes left.
Hoffman added all seniors to the game with just over a minute left, the final time Cedarville’s seniors would step foot on Callan’s floor.
The Lady Jackets’ next opponent in the tournament is No. 2 Kentucky Wesleyan. The two teams split their head-to-heads this season. The remainder of the G-MAC Tournament matchups will take place at Walsh, with the semifinal round taking place on Friday.
“It’s gonna be a heck of a game,” Hoffman said of the matchup against KWU. “That’s all I can say.”