by Tim Miller
Homecourt advantage will likely be a moot aspect of basketball for the coming weeks with the spread of the coronavirus.
Luckily for the Cedarville Lady Jackets, they didn’t need fans as they beat Roberts Wesleyan in an empty gym to open the NCCAA Midwest Regional Tournament on Wednesday evening, 92-62. The Lady Jackets took control of the game in the second half, blowing out Roberts Wesleyan 65-25 in the final 20 minutes.
The game took place in front of zero fans after Cedarville announced yesterday it would not permit spectators of any kind to attend. Today, the university announced residential students would be required to leave campus for more than two weeks.
“It didn’t feel too much different,” Hoffman said of the environment. “I challenged them to play the game of basketball, that doesn’t change. We play for a higher purpose, and if we’re truly playing for an audience of one, this is a great time to do it.”
G-MAC Freshman of the Year Isabelle Bolender led the Lady Jackets (21-8) in scoring with 13 points on 3-5 shooting from deep. Senior forward Cameron Peek summed a season-high 10 points and made all six of her free throw attempts. Sophomore guard Emily Chapman matched Peek with 10 points and three rebounds. All 13 rostered Lady Jackets played and scored in the win.
Head coach Kari Hoffman said she was really proud of her team for putting together a comprehensive, top-to-bottom performance in the win.
“It was fun to be back out there after several days of practice,” Hoffman said. “They practiced really well and they played really well.”
Bolender swished a triple with not a soul near her to kick off the scoring for Cedarville after sophomore Lexi Moore (five points, two steals) kicked it out for an assist. Moore then handed it off to Chapman, allowing Chapman to net a trifecta from the same spot Bolender did. Cedarville let 6-0 with 8:46 on the clock.
Roberts Wesleyan responded with five points in a row, but the Lady Jackets took off from there. Sophomore guard Allison Mader (10 points, five assists) knocked in a 3-pointer from the left wing to put Cedarville up 16-5, and the Redhawks responded with a timeout with 4:07 on the clock. During the span, no Lady Jacket made more than one field goal in a well-orchestrated and balanced attack.
Late in the first quarter, Hoffman already resorted to going deep into her bench. While the move may not have directly helped the Lady Jackets, it certainly didn’t hurt them to close the quarter.
After one frame, Cedarville led 16-7. The Lady Jackets’ offense suffered to close the period, failing to score in the final 4:17. Regardless, the Redhawks only made 25.0% of their shots in the first 10 minutes. Bolender, Mader, Chapman, and junior forward Stevie Johnting (eight points, five rebounds) all had three points for the Lady Jackets, while junior guard Ashlyn Huffman (eight points, three assists) and sophomore forward Alli Roh (two points, four rebounds) each had two.
To open the second, Roberts Wesleyan threw a trapping zone at Cedarville. The scheme certainly tripped up the Lady Jackets for the first couple minutes, as they made just one shot through 7:42 on the clock.
However, freshman guard Paige Garr (three points, three assists) joined the fun with a corner triple to put Cedarville up 21-13, and Wolford added another from the same mark to give Cedarville its first double figure lead.
The spurt of scoring came thanks to crisp passing and fastbreak points. As the Redhawks were able to settle into their defense, Cedarville was unable to get into a rhythm. The Lady Jackets forced up multiple shots that came late in the shot clock and couldn’t find separation.
Roberts Wesleyan went on a 7-0 run to cut Cedarville’s lead to 28-25 with 2:55 remaining. Cedarville went scoreless for over four-and-a-half minutes before Huffman made a fastbreak lay-up with 48 seconds left, putting the Lady Jackets back up by five.
With four seconds left, Bolender rattled in a 3-pointer from the right wing to lift Cedarville’s spirits going into halftime. Through 20 minutes, the Lady Jackets led 33-27.
Bolender led all scorers with eight points on 3-4 shooting and ripped away two rebounds. Chapman added five points and two rebounds. In total, nine Lady Jackets scored in the first half.
The Lady Jackets were battered on the boards, grabbing five less rebounds than the Redhawks in the first half. Additionally, the Redhawks shot a better percentage from the field and 3-point line in the second quarter, which allowed them to get back into the game.
“I think we were a little frustrated going into half,” Hoffman said. “They responded really well on the defensive end, and that fueled offensive firepower.”
Cedarville opened the third quarter with four points in a row, and the Redhawks called a timeout less than a minute in. The timeout didn’t do much, as Wolford made a quick jumper and Moore made a lay-up to give Cedarville a 14-point advantage.
The Lady Jackets continued to play around with a comfortable lead, which allowed Hoffman to get every Lady Jacket on the floor before the third quarter ended. Cedarville enjoyed flirting with a 20-point lead, and Peek finally allowed the Lady Jackets to reach the milestone after converting two free throw tries with 3:23 on the clock.
Peek bullied her way to the basket and made a left-handed lay-up to put Cedarville up by 25, 63-38, with 1:19 on the clock.
Cedarville closed the quarter with a 65-42 margin. Peek had six points in the quarter and Moore contributed five. In total, the Lady Jackets scored 32 points in the third.
To start the fourth quarter, Hoffman put in her starters. They were subbed out of the game quickly, as they began leaving less than a minute into the period.
For the rest of the game, Cedarville’s reserves had fun getting consistent playing time before the NCCAA National Tournament coming in a week. The Lady Jackets made multiple triples to close the game, which allowed them to keep its big lead throughout.
Senior guard Anna DeFilippo was the biggest beneficiary of the playing time, canning three triples in the quarter for a career-high nine points. She said the team’s intensity allowed them to push past the Redhawks.
“We were really on fire for this game because we want to finish the year really strong,” DeFilippo said. “We knew this could potentially be our last game on our home floor and we went out with energy and it continued on for the rest of the game.
If Grace College wins its matchup tonight against Concordia (Michigan), there will be no regional championship tomorrow, as each team will head back to Grace for the NCCAA National Tournament coming next week. However, if Grace loses, Cedarville will battle with Concordia tomorrow night at 7 p.m. for the regional title.
Tim Miller is a senior Marketing major, editor-in-chief and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys having a baby face and striving to perfect the optimal combination of Dwight Schrute and Ron Swanson.