by Tim Miller
The Cedarville Yellow Jackets outsniped the Malone Pioneers in the second half on their way to a seventh-straight victory on Thursday evening, winning 74-58. Cedarville shot 67.7% from the field while Malone made just 33.3% of its shots in the second half.
Sophomore guard Branden Maughmer scored 19 points to lead Cedarville. He also added four rebounds, four steals, and two assists. Sophomore center Kollin Van Horn accumulated 15 points on 7-11 shooting. Sophomore forward Isaiah Speelman tallied 12 points and freshman forward Jacob Drees ended with 10 points and five rebounds.
Head coach Pat Estepp said his team gutted out a tough victory thanks to defending well in the second half.
“They’re a really good team and a really well-coached team,” Estepp said. “They’re been playing some good basketball and scoring a lot, so we knew we had to defend. I thought we did a good job of that.”
Both teams missed their first shots, but Maughmer enjoyed a steal that led to a fastbreak acrobatic lay-up to put Cedarville on the board. The teams traded shots from inside the arc until Malone made a triple with 15:48 left. With the bucket, the Pioneers took a 9-6 lead.
Drees knocked down a triple to give Cedarville an 11-9 advantage with 13:49 left. Neither team showed a clear advantage early, as the Yellow Jackets held a lead for longer, but never led by more than three.
Cedarville finally pushed its lead to four after Van Horn used an up-and-under move on the right block to score, and then hit a free throw. With 10:25 remaining, Cedarville led 16-12.
The Pioneers came back with four straight points to tie it at 16 with 8:11 on the clock. To the point, Malone shot 41% while Cedarville shot 40%.
The Yellow Jackets again scored four in a row after Speelman made the jumper. The shot put Cedarville up 20-16 with 6:37 left. Consistent with gameflow to the point, Malone again chipped away and got back into the game. A made shot gave Malone the lead back with 4:18 remaining.
A turnover allowed sophomore guard Quinton Green to sprint to the bucket on the other end for a hard two-handed slam. At the under-four media timeout, the Yellow Jackets were up 24-23. To that point, both teams shot nearly identically, as Malone made 43.5% of its shots while Cedarville made 42.3% of its tries.
The Yellow Jackets’ lead grew at an ideal time. The Yellow Jackets six points in a row and at halftime led 28-25. Six Yellow Jackets scored in the first 20 minutes, as Maughmer led with six, Drees and Van Horn each tossed in five, and Green, Drees, and junior forward Conner TenHove all added four more.
As a team, Cedarville shot poorly, making 40% of its shots from the field and just one of nine attempts from deep. Luckily, Malone wasn’t much better, as the Pioneers nailed 42.3% of its shots from the field and just two of nine tries from behind the 3-point line. While Cedarville had just three less turnovers, the Yellow Jackets made much more of forcing them than did the Pioneers, as Cedarville scored 12 points off turnovers compared to a measly two by Malone.
Cedarville was a baby step ahead of Malone in the first half, and it showed as the Yellow Jackets led for 13 and-a-half minutes, compared to Malone leading for just over three minutes.
“We just couldn’t get into a flow offensively,” Estepp said. “They were driving us a lot and we were settling too much. It was kind of like a rock fight in the first half.”
Momentum moved by no more than inches at a time to start the second half. At the under-16 media timeout, Cedarville led 34-31. Cedarville made one more field goal but suffered two turnovers in the first four minutes.
Late in the shot clock, Maughmer got the ball and attacked the rim from the left baseline. The drive resulted in a two-handed slam over a Malone defender, sparking the Cedarville crowd. On the next possession, Speelman nailed a triple to give Cedarville its biggest lead of the game, a 39-33 margin with 13:50 left.
Thirty seconds later, Green, who had eight points and five rebounds at the time, committed his fourth foul, which sent him to the bench. Cedarville’s offense remained unfazed, as Maughmer rattled in another mid-range jumper to push the Yellow Jacket lead back to six.
With nine minutes left, Van Horn joined the dunking party, taking one step to gather himself before rising to the rim for a mammoth two-handed dunk. Maughmer then scored two more on the next possession, ballooning Cedarville’s lead to 49-43 with 8:23 remaining.
To that point, there was a clear contrast between the team’s shooting percentages through the first 12 minutes. The Yellow Jackets connected on 62.5% of their shots, while Malone made just 29.4% of its field goal attempts.
With 5:36 on the clock, Speelman connected on his second 3-pointer to swell the Yellow Jackets lead to 56-44. The shot gave Cedarville its first double-digit lead, and the Yellow Jackets began to show some dominance over Malone. The lead was pushed to 14 Drees made a triple on the next possession.
After the shot, the Yellow Jackets were slow to get back in transition, allowing for an open triple to be netted by Malone. The Pioneers immediately called a timeout, down 61-50 with 4:23 remaining.
Cedarville continued to keep the pressure on Malone, and never came close to surrendering its lead to close the game. The Yellow Jackets would go on to win and didn’t lose its double-figure lead, even without the services of Green down the stretch and Van Horn fouling out.
Cedarville steps away after five straight wins at Callan to travel to Lake Erie on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets eeked out an overtime win over Lake Erie on Dec. 5, 77-69.
The Yellow Jackets have a loaded G-MAC schedule to close the regular season, with bouts against the top three teams in the conference in Walsh (home), Findlay (home), and Hillsdale (road). Estepp said his team has to remain focused against Lake Erie before they can look to these tough matchups.
“We can’t look past anything coming up,” Estepp said of the schedule. “Lake Erie is one of the most talented teams in the league and they didn’t play this week, so they’ve had all week to prepare for us.”
He went on to say the Yellow Jackets must stick to what they’re good at and focus in on those skill sets.
“It’s gonna be a tough stretch,” Estepp said. “When you get to this point in the year, it’s about staying locked in to what you do well, making sure you’re doing what you have to do to be a good team, and you’ve gotta be tough.”
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.