by Tim Miller
There was no shortage of energy as the Callan Athletic Center rocked harder than it has all season for the Cedarville Lady Jackets on Thursday evening. Even with the buzz, Cedarville fell to Malone in a nail-biter, 81-74. The loss was Cedarville’s first at home in 33 regular season games.
The loss sent Cedarville (16-6, 9-4 G-MAC) back in the G-MAC standings. Entering the night, the two teams were separated by a game, but with the win, Malone gained two games of space from the Lady Jackets.
Senior guard Abby Wolford made Cedarville’s first triple of the contest, and with the shot, Cedarville fans showered the gym with pink streamers in honor of the Play4Kay game. The Lady Jackets were assessed with a technical foul by rule, and the game was paused for a few minutes to take clean the floor.
“It’s fun to play for a purpose bigger than ourselves,” Hoffman said. “Having some breast cancer fighters in the crowd, I challenged our girls to play tough basketball and I think they did that. It’s fun to play in an occasion [like that].”
Wolford led the team in scoring, tying her season-high with 25 points on 9-15 shooting. Wolford would leave the game in the fourth quarter and did not return. Hoffman relayed after the game that Wolford suffered an ankle injury, and that a timetable for her return is not available at the moment.
The only other Lady Jacket to reach double figures was junior guard Ashlyn Huffman with 10 points. She also passed out seven dimes.
Hoffman said she knew the setup of the game had the makings of a unique one with the atmosphere and a game against a top conference team, but that the amount of times they fell behind ended up keeping Cedarville from grabbing the win.
“We had some breakdowns,” Hoffman said. “We got down by several points a couple times and battled back. I was really proud of our girls for that.”
Malone got off to a hot start, jumping to a 6-2 lead early. Cedarville struggled offensively, something the Lady Jackets rarely ran into this season. Even with the sluggish start shooting, Cedarville still stayed in the game with relative ease. Sophomore forward Alli Roh made her first shot of the game with 6:16 remaining, cutting Malone’s lead to 11-9. On the next possession, Wolford used a crafty post move to get to the hoop and tie the game.
With just under five minutes left, freshman guard Paige Garr swished a 3-pointer from the left wing after grabbing an offensive rebound. The shot gave Cedarville its first lead of the game at 14-13.
The offensive assaults continued, as Cedarville pushed its lead to four, but Malone responded quickly. The Pioneers closed the quarter on a 13-4 run and led 29-21 after one frame.
Wolford led the Lady Jackets in scoring with seven points and Huffman added four. While Cedarville shot well at 60%, the Pioneers were even better, making 77% of their shots in the quarter. The turnover bug bit the Lady Jackets, as they suffered six in the first 10 minutes.
Malone reached its first double digit lead after making a trifecta less than two minutes into the second quarter. The shot gave the Pioneers a 32-21 lead.
The Pioneers’ offense was white-hot, and Cedarville was in dire need of stops defensively as they looked outmatched and out of breath early. Luckily for the Lady Jackets, they cut the lead to two with an 11-2 run. Cedarville finally looked more comfortable and kept Malone from sprinting away with the game thanks to the spurt. With 4:57 left, Cedarville trailed 34-32.
Malone took back the momentum by hitting two triples in a row, but Cedarville fought back, scoring the final five points of the half. Wolford hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with less than a second left to bring the Lady Jackets within two. At halftime, Malone led 44-42.
Wolford scored 17 points in the half and shot 6-11 from the field. She also pulled away three rebounds. Sophomore guard Emily Chapman tossed in all seven of her points in the quarter. Cedarville’s defense stepped up in the second quarter, allowed just 40% of Malone’s shots to go in.
It was one of the sloppiest games at Callan this season, as 19 fouls were called in the first half, with Cedarville owning nine and Malone committing 10. In multiple instances, one or more Lady Jackets or Pioneers tumbled to the floor. Cedarville also committed 11 turnovers in the half.
The intensity from the crowd was apparent, as fans erupted when Cedarville drained a key shot or halted a Malone possession. Further, each foul call was met with fury, as it was clear the fans were invested in a key conference showdown.
Cedarville continued to play well to start the second half, and Moore made her first triple of the season to give the Lady Jackets a 45-44 lead a half-minute into the half.
The Lady Jackets push their lead to two possessions and started the half on an 11-4 run. With just over six minutes left, Huffman drove down the right baseline to put herself in position to make a lay-up. The shot put Cedarville up 53-48.
Malone scored six of the next seven points to cut Cedarville’s lead to 55-54. The Lady Jackets called a timeout with 3:47 on the clock as they looked to prevent Malone’s momentum from becoming a full-fledged run.
Out of the timeout, Wolford scored the Lady Jackets’ next six points. After a free throw by the senior, Cedarville led 61-56 with 1:45 left in the period.
Malone again climbed back into the game, and hit a shot to take back the lead at 64-63 to close the quarter. Wolford scored eight points to tie her season-high in just three quarters. Moore added seven points and Huffman scored six.
With 8:41 left in the fourth, Wolford fell hard to the floor and suffered an apparent lower-body injury. She would not return to the contest. Hoffman said losing Wolford hurt, but that she thought the team had enough in the tank to comeback and win.
Both teams struggled to create any space from each other, and after redshirt freshman guard Isabelle Bolender sank a wide-open lay-up, the Lady Jackets called a timeout. At that point, Malone led 69-67 with 5:34 left.
Cedarville deployed a run-and-jump zone that forced a turnover out of the timeout, and Roh made a lay-up on the other end to tie the game. The Lady Jackets again forced a turnover on Malone’s next possession, and Roh made a free throw to put Cedarville up 70-69 with 4:25 left.
The Lady Jackets managed to take a 74-72 lead with just over two minutes left. After a timeout, the Lady Jackets forced a missed shot. However, they were unable to extend their lead on the other end. The score remained unchanged as Malone walked the ball down the court with 1:24 left.
Malone would make a triple to take a one-point lead with 1:13 remaining. Cedarville got the ball back and took a timeout with 53 seconds left. Cedarville was kept off the board and Malone made two free throws to take a 77-74 lead with 19.4 ticks on the clock. The Lady Jackets took a full timeout with no margin for error.
Garr attempted a stepback 3-pointer right off the inbounds pass, but the shot fell short. Malone made free throws to extend its lead and the Lady Jackets were unable to cut down the lead, leading to Cedarville’s first loss in five games.
Cedarville made just five of 20 attempts from the field in the fourth quarter, effectively extinguishing the offensive success it had enjoyed for much of the game.
“I credit Malone a ton,” Hoffman said. “She has those guys playing unbelievable basketball right now. We knew they were gonna show up and play they hearts out and they did. They made plays and made them late.”
The Lady Jackets haven’t played on the road since Jan. 18, but Cedarville will take on Lake Erie on Saturday for a road test. Cedarville had no problems with the Storm in the first meeting of the season, as the Lady Jackets stomped Lake Erie 90-69.
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.