Yellow Jackets Struggle Defensively, Lose in Home Opener

by Tim Miller

Cedarville men’s basketball head coach Pat Estepp has said multiple times that this year’s team is the best shooting squad he’s ever had. Unfortunately for the Yellow Jackets, Grand Valley State was the best shooting team on the floor on Friday night, as they defeated Cedarville 86-75 in Cedarville’s home opener at the Don Callan Classic.

The Lakers shot 53.4% from the field and 46.7% from deep. Cedarville, now 2-2 on the young season, allowed 14 triples  Grand Valley State poured it on in an offensive showcase. The Yellow Jackets made nine of their 24 chances from behind the arc which was just a 37.5% clip.

“We knew it was going to be a hard fought game,” Estepp said. “I thought there was some spells where we looked really good, but we didn’t get enough stops.”

Sophomore guard Branden Maughmer led the Yellow Jackets in scoring with 16 points. He also grabbed five rebounds. Freshman forward Jacob Drees introduced himself to the Cedarville faithful with 13 points and four dimes, and he didn’t miss a shot. Junior forward Conner TenHove added 10 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.

Maughmer didn’t waste any time scoring the first points of the Yellow Jackets’ season on Callan’s floor, pulling up and hitting a quick mid-range jumper just 12 seconds into the game. After being fouled on an attempt from deep, sophomore forward Quinton Green swished three free throws to put the Yellow Jackets up 5-2. Off the free throws, Cedarville used a full-court press to force a 10-second violation, further allowing Cedarville to set the tempo early.

The onslaught of scoring continued as sophomore forward Kollin Van Horn utilized solid post positioning that led to a bucket. With 16:54 left, Cedarville led 12-7. Grand Valley State responded with seven points in a row to take a 14-12 advantage with 15:22 on the clock.

The teams were neck-and-neck for the next four minutes, and with 11:46 left, the game was tied at 21. The run by the Lakers was thanks in part to Cedarville’s sloppy ball handling, as they suffered five turnovers in the next four minutes to allow Grand Valley State to stay in the game.

With 10:06 remaining, Maughmer gave the Yellow Jackets some breathing room with a triple from the left win, putting Cedarville up 28-23.

Drees launched a deep trifecta with 5:59 left that rattled in to give Cedarville a 39-33 lead. Less than a minute later, TenHove got in on the action, netting a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Yellow Jackets up 42-35.

The Lakers continued to fight, and brought the score within one at 42-41 with 3:39 remaining. The Grand Valley State bench seemed to feel the momentum shifting and began getting loud to aid the Lakers. In the span of 90 seconds, Grand Valley State splashed two more triples to go up 47-42. During this time, the Yellow Jackets had just one starter on the bench.

Speelman (5) and the Yellow Jackets couldn’t shut down the Lakers’ hot shooting (Photo by Carrie Bergan).

At halftime, Cedarville trailed 49-46. Maughmer continued to pace the Yellow Jackets with 14 points on 5-8 shooting. Senior forward Seth Dittmer and Drees followed behind with eight and seven points respectively. Grand Valley State shot the lights out in the first 20 minutes, hitting 62.1% of its shots from the field and 50% (7-14) of its shots from behind the arc.

The Lakers closed the half riding a 14-4 run.

“We had our chances to end the half with a big lead,” Estepp said. “We didn’t get stops and we had a couple guys get in foul trouble and that hurt us.”

Grand Valley State stayed hot to open the second, scoring seven of the half’s first nine points. After Green banked in a short 2-pointer, the Yellow Jackets were in desperate need of a stop to mount a run. They got their stop, but failed to score on the offensive end. The Lakers hit a triple, continuing to rain shots from deep, pitting them up 59-50 with 15:47 on the clock.

Cedarville cut the lead to 61-56 with 13:13 left after Drees hit his second triple. With 12:27 on the clock, sophomore forward Isaiah Speelman splashed a triple that sent Callan into a frenzy, bringing the score to 61-59. The Lakers responded with a timeout as Cedarville had mounted a 9-0 run.

The Lakers began to swing the momentum back in their favor after a step-back triple put them up 69-64 with eight minutes left. Van Horn made a jump hook with 6:13 left to cut the lead to one at 71-70.

The Yellow Jackets found themselves down 82-72 with 3:22 remaining as the Lakers continued to score at a high rate. The Lakers milked the game from there, easing the Yellow Jackets into defeat.

The Yellow Jackets are back in action tomorrow to take on No. 22 Indianapolis to close out the Don Callan Classic. Indy clipped Ohio Dominican to open the invitational this evening, 71-69.

“Tomorrow’s going to be a challenge,” Estepp said. “That’ll be another test because they shoot the ball really well. We’re gonna have to make some adjustments defensively.”

Tim Miller is a senior marketing major, editor-in-chief and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys having a baby face, knowing too much about health insurance, and striving to perfect the optimal combination of Dwight Schrute and Ron Swanson.

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