by Tim Miller
“It’s the lesson that everybody talks about and you always hate to learn. It’s not the first shot that beats you, it’s the second one.”
That’s what head coach Pat Estepp said after the Cedarville Yellow Jackets (17-10, 12-5 G-MAC) suffered a heartbreaking loss to Findlay, falling 77-75 on Wednesday night. While the Yellow Jackets fought back from a 20-point deficit to cut the lead to zero, a Findlay buzzer-beater ended up counting after being reviewed, which handed the Yellow Jackets a loss on senior night.
Sophomore guard Quinton Green emerged as the offensive leader, scoring 18 points on 6-11 shooting. Junior forward Conner TenHove and sophomore center Kollin Van Horn both dialed up 13 points, and TenHove pulled away seven rebounds. Sophomore forward Isaiah Speelman was the only other Yellow Jacket in double figures with 10 points. Sophomore guard Branden Maughmer stuffed the statsheet with eight points, five rebounds, seven assists, and four steals.
Estepp commented on his two seniors, guard Demond Parker and center Seth Dittmer, saying they fit right in quickly upon transferring to Cedarville.
“Both those two guys transferred into our program,” Estepp said. “They came in and blended right in with our guys. It’s cool to see them grow spiritually, as young men, and in our program. We’re gonna miss them.”
The Yellow Jackets were ice cold to start the game and were held scoreless for nearly three minutes. Cedarville got on the board after Maughmer grabbed an offensive rebound and flipped it up and into the hoop. With the bucket, Cedarville trailed 7-2 with 17:16 left.
While Findlay continued to dominate, Maughmer again scored thanks to a sneaky backcut. The sophomore took a pass and rose up for a strong two-handed slam. Cedarville was still down 12-4 with 16:23 remaining.
Cedarville came back, cutting the margin to 16-13 after Van Horn scored off an assist from Maughmer with 13:36 on the clock. However, Findlay ran right away from Cedarville, scoring six in a row in the next minute.
The run continued, as the Oilers scored 13 of the next 15 points. With 9:47 left, Cedarville called a timeout down 29-15. To that point, the Yellow Jackets didn’t shoot terribly from the field (50%), but their defense couldn’t put any pressure on Findlay, allowing the Oilers to pile in 62.5% of their shots.
With 7:32 left, Findlay managed to double up Cedarville after swishing a triple. The Oilers’ run reached an 18-4 mark, and Findlay led 34-17 with the shot.
Green made a triple on the other end to finally end Findlay’s run. However, the shot didn’t seem to give Cedarville any momentum, as the Yellow Jackets trailed 34-20 with 6:45 on the clock.
As the Yellow Jackets continued to struggle, a 10th foul with over five minutes remaining added another brick to the backs of Cedarville. That 10th foul put Findlay up 40-20 after two made free throws.
Cedarville’s foul trouble, especially with Van Horn, disrupted their flow of the game to start, Estepp said.
“Give them credit,” Estepp said. “They came out and punched us in the face to start the game. I don’t know why, but we came out a little flat. For some reason, we couldn’t get anything going.”
Cedarville finally showed life, scoring five quick points in a row. Findlay called a quick 30-second timeout to slow things down. After the timeout, Cedarville scored five more, making the run 10-0. With 3:35 on the clock, Findlay led 40-30, but Cedarville finally showed it could compete.
The revived Yellow Jackets continued to play with a renewed energy, likely thanks in part to the fans in Callan who came alive as well. As the teams continued to battle, Findlay retained a lead of 10 or more through the rest of the first half, until Green swished a buzzer-beating triple to bring the game to halftime.
The teams headed to the locker room and Findlay held a 45-38 lead. Green led the Yellow Jackets with 12 points and made three of his six attempts from deep. Freshman guard Dan McKeeman added seven points and both Maughmer and Van Horn tallied six.
Findlay’s hot shooting was the story of the first half, knocking in 58.3% of its shots from the field. Further, the Oilers had 18 free throw attempts in the half and made 13. The foul trouble Cedarville found itself in put the Yellow Jackets in a tough position moving forward. Van Horn had three fouls while TenHove, senior guard Demond Parker, and senior center Seth Dittmer had two.
Cedarville was completely manhandled on the glass in the half, as the Yellow Jackets were only able to secure 10 rebounds compared to Findlay’s 19.
While Findlay’s largest lead swelled to 20, Cedarville’s ability to battle unrelenting adversity and cut Findlay’s lead by a wide portion gave the Yellow Jackets hope in the second half. Further, Cedarville rarely played its own brand of basketball in the half.
Findlay extended its lead to open the half thanks to seven second-chance points and six points of turnovers. With 16:02 left, Findlay made a deep 3-pointer, putting the Oilers up 56-41.
Out of a timeout, Parker made a triple from the right corner to bring Cedarville within 12. It didn’t take much to spark a rocking Yellow Jackets crowd, and the fans’ volume continued to grow. Van Horn netted two free throws to bring the Yellow Jackets back within 10, and chants from the Yellow Jacket faithful began again.
“That was a huge help to getting us back into the game,” Estepp said of the crowd. “When we started making a run, I thought the crowd was tremendous. I’m thankful for them.”
Cedarville’s chances took a blow when Van Horn received his fourth foul with 13:39 left. However, it didn’t take long for Cedarville to respond.
TenHove cut the lead down to eight twice in the next couple minutes thanks to a pair of free throws and then by muscling his way to the bucket for two. With 13:27 left, the Oilers led 58-50.
Cedarville continued to put the pressure on the Oilers, scoring six of the next seven points. After Speelman canned two free throws, Findlay’s lead was as fragile as ever, leading 59-56 with 9:44 on the clock.
Cedarville’s offense was stumped for over six minutes, and nine straight points allowed the Oilers to take back control of the game.
With 6:09 left, Cedarville subbed Green and Van Horn back in the game, both having four fouls. The dry spell finally ended for Cedarville after TenHove made a lay-up while getting hung all over by a Findlay defender. TenHove made the free throw after, making the score 68-59 with 3:10 remaining.
After forcing a turnover, Van Horn converted a lay-up while being fouled. His free throw went in, pulling the Yellow Jackets within six with 2:37 left.
The Yellow Jackets again pulled within six and had a chance to make it a one-possession game after calling a timeout with 1:28 on the clock. Green came through with a triple, pulling the Yellow Jackets within three with over a minute left.
Estepp begged for his defense to get a stop on the next possession, and a controversial shooting foul was called which allowed the Oilers to drop in one free throw with 54.6 seconds left.
Van Horn bullied his way to the bucket on a mismatch, pulling the Yellow Jackets within two as time continued to tick. Findlay took a timeout with 36.7 seconds left.
Findlay made a pair of free throws to go up four, but yet again the valiant Yellow Jackets fired back. Green splashed a triple from the right corner after bobbling the catch to make it a one point game with 17.8 ticks on the clock. Cedarville called a timeout as it looked to complete an unprecedented comeback.
After fumbling around and finally getting a chance, Maughmer drove to the hoop with six seconds left. He was fouled on the lay-up, but made both free throws to tie the game.
Findlay sprinted down the floor and threw up a prayer off an offensive rebound at the buzzer and made it. The shot won Findlay the game with literally no time to spare. The officials watched video and reviewed the shot, and ended up counting it.
“We came storming back,” Estepp said. “That’s the one thing about these guys; it’s a testament to their leaders.”
Cedarville will close out its regular season on Saturday when the Yellow Jackets travel to Ohio Valley. The Yellow Jackets easily took care of the Fighting Scots, winning Jan. 25, 97-76. Even with a win, the Yellow Jackets would only be fighting for higher seeding in the G-MAC Tournament, as they’ve but all but locked out from gaining homecourt for the tournament due to points ratings.
Estepp said the Yellow Jackets will need to win the G-MAC Tournament in order to continue their season, and that it’s certainly not out of the question.
“We have a chance to have a lot left in front of us,” Estepp said. “We’re right there. We’ve enjoyed this season and we want to stretch this thing out as long as we can.”
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.