by Josh Decker
Following an impressive semifinal win over No. 2 Findlay Friday night, the No. 6 Cedarville Yellow Jackets’ season ended with a disappointing 77-59 loss to Malone in the 2020-2021 G-MAC championship.
Cedarville was led offensively by senior Conner TenHove, who dropped 18 points on 7-14 shooting from the field, and junior Branden Maughmer, who scored 13 on 6-12 shooting.
Cedarville fell behind early in the game, surrendering baskets quickly and going down 11-4 by the first media timeout of the half.
A dunk by Maughmer and a couple of buckets from TenHove got the Jackets’ offense rolling, but Malone’s offense was red-hot from the field and not showing any signs of slowing down.
With 12 minutes to play in the half, the Pioneers had stretched the lead to 12 with the score at 22-10.
Five straight possessions of scoring for Cedarville trimmed the Malone lead by a couple points, but defensively, the Jackets’ could not stop Malone’s offense. Five turnovers in six possessions for the Yellow Jackets’ allowed Malone to take a 34-23 lead by the under-four media timeout.
In the huddle, head coach Pat Estepp challenged his players to make a run and cut into the deficit before halftime, and that is exactly what the Jackets’ did.
Defensive urgency picked up as Cedarville got stops on defense, which transitioned to points on the other end of the court for the Jackets’.
The Yellow Jackets’ scored on six of seven possessions to close out the half on an 11-0 run, which leveled the score at 34 going into the locker-room and gave Cedarville all of the momentum.
Despite the great ending to the first half, the Jackets’ were only shooting 1-7, or 14 percent from behind-the-arc, though the squad was converting at 48 percent from the field overall.
Cedarville held a slight 20-18 advantage on the boards at halftime, but had committed 8 turnovers.
The Jackets’ started the final twenty minutes off strong with an Isaiah Speelman shot in the paint to give Cedarville its first lead at 36-34.
A pair of free throws and a basket from Kollin VanHorn gave the Yellow Jackets’ a three-point lead at the under-16 mark, but the rest of the half would be all Malone.
Ten straight possessions without scoring, including two turnovers and five missed shots in the paint, flipped the score from a 40-37 Cedarville advantage to a commanding 57-42 Malone lead with 12 minutes remaining.
A triple by Speelman broke the scoring drought and provided a glimmer of hope for the Jackets’ offense, but the deficit was still large with the score at 62-47 at the eight-minute mark.
Cedarville was unable to get any type of consistent stops defensively, and the offensive continued to sputter, as Malone ran away with the G-MAC championship 75-59.
The Jackets’ finished the game shooting only 37 percent from the floor and a miserable 3-20, or 15 percent, from 3-point range. Free throws were an issue for Cedarville, as the team only shot 12-18 in the game, and the Jackets’ also committed 14 turnovers in the contest.
The rebounding battle was even, with both Cedarville and Malone finishing with 37 boards, and the Jackets’ did finish the game with an impressive five blocks.
The Yellow Jackets’ finish the 2020-2021 season with a 12-9 record, and will now focus on improving in the offseason ahead of next year. Cedarville loses seniors Andy Spurr, Andrew Stein, and Adam Standley, but returns everyone else to the roster.
Josh Decker is a junior Sport Business Management major, and a sports reporter for Cedars. He loves playing sports with friends, and spends much of his free time as a student assistant for the Cedarville men’s basketball team.