by Tim Miller
After suffering a beatdown of a loss to fifth-seeded Malone in the opening round of the G-MAC Tournament on March 3, the Cedarville Lady Jackets have a chance to remove the bitter taste in their mouths. This evening, top-seeded Cedarville will open and host the NCCAA Midwest Regional against fourth-seeded Roberts Wesleyan.
The game will take place in front of no spectators, as Cedarville has barred any fans from attending the tournament.
Eight teams will advance to the NCCAA National Tournament, which will take place next weekend at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana. Because both Cedarville and second-seeded Grace are ranked nationally, the two sides have already qualified for the national tournament. If each team wins tonight, there will be no regional championship game on Thursday.
No. 1 Cedarville Faces off With No. 4 Roberts Wesleyan for First Time Since 2011
While Roberts Wesleyan (15-13, 8-9 ECC) beat Cedarville (20-8, 13-5 G-MAC) in the two two teams’ last meeting, Cedarville would be clearly favored in tonight’s matchup.
The Lady Jackets’ toughest task will come when attempting to handle senior forward Emily Miller. Miller was a 2019 NCCAA first-team All-American, and has led the Redhawks this season with 14.0 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game (36th in NCAA, fifth in NCCAA). Miller also has made 45.8% of her field goals and 35.6% of her triples this year.
Further, Roberts Wesleyan sports two additional players who sum double digits in scoring average. Senior guard Sara Nady (11.4 points per game) and sophomore forward Taryn Wilson (10.3 points per game) contribute heavily to the Redhawks’ offense. Wilson is a sniper from deep, nailing 44.4% of her tries from behind the arc (15th in NCAA, third in NCCAA) this season.
Defensively, the Redhawks have been successful at holding opposing offenses at bay. Roberts Wesleyan has allowed 58.9 points per game this season, good for fourth in the NCCAA. Further, they’ve suffocated shooters this year, giving up just a 33.5% field goal percentage this season.
When it comes to matching up with Cedarville, the strength of the Redhawks’ defense could provide an interesting clash for Cedarville. The Lady Jackets have traditionally been a fantastic shooting team thanks to solid shooters from behind the arc and a crisp motion offense that leads to drive and kick opportunities.
The Lady Jackets are led by sixth-year senior and first-team All-G-MAC standout Abby Wolford, who averages 15.0 points per game as a jack-of-all-trades. Wolford has been a nightmare for opponents thanks to her versatility, as she can slash to the lane for a bucket or hit a contested triple. The West Harrison, Indiana native also provides key leadership abilities that are hard to replicate.
Wolford is coming off an ankle injury that sidelined her for five games, but she led Cedarville with 16 points in her return from injury against Malone in the G-MAC Tournament.
Additionally, Roberts Wesleyan will have to deal with junior guard Ashlyn Huffman (11.8 points per game, 6.0 assists per game) and sophomore guard Emily Chapman (9.3 points per game, second most minutes per game). Both Huffman and Chapman are shifty point guards who distribute the ball well and find their way to the cup with crafty dribbling.
It’s also necessary to mention G-MAC Freshman of the Year, forward Isabelle Bolender. Bolender, a redshirt, is enjoying her first full season after suffering a torn ACL. Bolender averages 9.9 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game, thanks in large part to her ability to rise up over defenders. Her athleticism adds a wrinkle to Cedarville’s overall abilities, as she hit a buzzer-beater earlier this season simply by rising up over a defender and hitting a short jumper.
Cedarville’s bench is very deep, especially with Wolford healthy again. Freshman Paige Garr, sophomore Allison Mader, and junior guard Stevie Johnting (41.8% 3-point percentage, eighth in NCCAA). However, Cedarville is young, and the lack of maturity has likely nipped the Lady Jackets at times this season.
While the Redhawks defense has been stellar, Cedarville is shooting 45.3% from the field (28th in NCAA, second in NCCAA) and 34.9% from behind the arc (fifth in NCCAA). It is worth noting the Lady Jackets’ shooting figures have dropped since recent years, but there’s no question Wolford and her supporting cast can nail a trifecta or two when needed, as that’s been a large part of the offense this season.
Prediction: Lady Jackets Wins Because They’re Better
Especially in the NCCAA Regional Tournaments, the lack of competition leads to a higher gap between the best and worse teams. Cedarville was ranked No. 3 in the latest NCCAA rankings, compared to Roberts Wesleyan sliding in at No. 8. Further, in the NCCAA power ratings (a formula that calculates team’s strength of resume), Cedarville remains at third while the Redhawks fall to 11th.
There’s no need to overthink this. The game (even with no fans) is played at the Lady Jackets’ home gym, where they’re comfortable. Further, Cedarville’s six wins over teams over .500 trump Roberts Wesleyan’s two. The Lady Jackets own a deeper team, better wins, and more offensive weapons.
Expect the Lady Jackets to take command of the game with a hot offensive start as per usual and win the game by a margin of 15 points.
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.