by Tim Miller
The Cedarville Yellow Jackets avenged their Jan. 11 30-point loss to Walsh on Saturday evening, delivering an upset win to the Cavaliers to the tune of 74-64. Though the Yellow Jackets suffered a slow start and No. 22 Walsh enjoyed a furious finish, the bulk of the game was dominated by Cedarville.
“That loss at Walsh kinda turned our season around,” head coach Pat Estepp said after tonight’s win. “It woke us up and made us realize we weren’t as tough as we thought we were even though we played a challenging schedule.”
After suffering a loss at Hillsdale on Thursday, Cedarville (17-9, 12-4 G-MAC) needed to make up for it against Walsh. Due to the new G-MAC ratings system, Cedarville’s win over Walsh means more than just another win, as the Yellow Jackets now have more fuel to close in on the No. 1 seed in the final week of the season.
Sophomore center Kollin Van Horn scored 17 points on 7-12 shooting. The big man is averaging 16.2 points and 4.3 rebounds in his last six games. Estepp said Van Horn was a big part of Cedarville’s hot start to the second half.
“In the last seven or eight games, I don’t know there’s been a better post player in our conference,” Estepp said. “He’s been really good and he’s forcing double teams.”
Sophomore guard Branden Maughmer was right behind, throwing in 16 points and five assists. Both sophomore guard Quinton Green and sophomore forward Isaiah Speelman added 12 points.
Estepp mentioned senior guard Demond Parker and junior forward Conner TenHove along with Maughmer, Green, and Speelman as players who stepped up tonight.
The Yellow Jackets used a bunch of passes in their first possession, and though it led to no points, it was clear ball movement was a point of emphasis to start the game for Cedarville.
Walsh set the tone early, making three triples to start the game. Walsh drove in and made its first shot from inside the arc with 16:03 left to go up 11-3. This would end up being the largest lead of the game for the Cavaliers.
Cedarville fought back, scoring seven in a row to cut the lead to 13-10 after a defensive lapse allowed Speelman to drop the ball into the cup with 13:49 left.
The run continued, and with a post move ending in a Van Horn banked in shot, Walsh’s lead had disappeared. The game was tied at 15 with 11:25 on the clock thanks to Cedarville’s 12-4 run. Van Horn continued to work and made a lay-up and was fouled, tying the game. Van Horn would make the ensuing free throw and with 10:02 remaining, Cedarville led 20-19.
As the teams continued to trade blows, Cedarville began to inch away ever so slightly. Maughmer found Parker for a wide-open triple, then Maughmer stole the ball and took it all the way to the rim for a one-handed jam. Walsh called a timeout in response, trailing 25-21 with 8:17 left.
Out of the timeout, Walsh scored six straight to take back the lead. From there, the game wasn’t separated by more than two possessions until Maughmer made a half-court pass to TenHove, and TenHove finished a lay-up, putting the Yellow Jackets up 38-33 with 45 seconds left.
Cedarville maintained that lead into the half. After 20 minutes, both Van Horn and Maughmer had nine points and shot a combined 8-11. Speelman tallied seven points on 3-4 shooting and Parker had five points.
As a team, Cedarville was the better shooting squad in the half, making 59.3% of its shots and 62.5% of its shots from behind the arc. Further, the Yellow Jackets outrebounded Walsh by one. The razor-thin margin was obvious when rummaging through the statsheet, as the teams were deadlocked in every other category.
TenHove opened the second half by splashing a triple from the left wing to give Cedarville it’s biggest lead of the game at seven points. Maughmer found himself all alone for another triple on the next possession using good off-ball movement to put the Yellow Jackets up nine. On the next possession, Van Horn used a mismatch to get a quick lay-in, and Cedarville led 46-35.
Walsh called a timeout with 18:11 on the clock as the Yellow Jackets effectively asserted their dominance to start the half.
While Walsh scored out of the timeout, Cedarville responded with yet another trifecta, this time by Parker. The Yellow Jackets were able to push their lead to 14 before even five minutes had passed in the half.
The Yellow Jackets, who usually prioritize an up-tempo offense, began to slow it down as the run came to a close. Walsh then cut the lead back down to eight after hitting a slew of triples. With 13:09 on the clock, Cedarville’s lead was 53-48.
Cedarville continued to push away Walsh, grabbing a 12-point lead in the next couple minutes and never letting its lead drop below nine. The slowed pace seemed to suck the energy from Walsh, even as each team scored less.
Estepp said he wanted to calm the pace in order to utilize Cedarville’s strength of depth over Walsh, and to keep the Cavaliers from shooting the three-ball (Walsh is No. 4 in the NCAA Division II).
Walsh tried to turn it up defensively by implementing a full-court man press, but other than forcing Cedarville to call a timeout, it didn’t affect the Yellow Jackets much.
The Cavaliers also suffered a scoring drought that lasted five-and-a-half minutes, and while Cedarville only scored six points during the stretch, Walsh still struggled to get back in the game. After Van Horn knocked in a free throw, the Yellow Jackets led 59-48 with 7:07 left.
Walsh’s strategy to slow the Yellow Jackets down was successful, but didn’t work in the Cavaliers’ favor. Cedarville continued to melt the clock away, making a concerted effort to not start any motion until 12 seconds on the shot clock at most. As Walsh struggled to get shots to fall, Cedarville did enough to keep its lead.
Walsh made it interesting with a lay-up with 59 seconds left, chipping the lead down to 66-61. Maughmer made two free throws, but Walsh answered back with a triple to cut the lead to four with 40 seconds on the clock.
After Walsh called a timeout, Speelman made a lay-up and was fouled. His free throw dropped in, icing the game and giving Cedarville its first ranked win of the season.
“One of the biggest things tonight was that we were tough,” Estepp said. “I thought we were physically tough and I thought we defended really well in the second half til the last few minutes.”
The Yellow Jackets’ next game will come in their final home game of the year for Senior Night on Wednesday against Findlay. Cedarville lost when it traveled to Findlay earlier this season, dropping the game 83-74. The game still has huge implications in the landscape of the G-MAC.
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.