Yellow Jackets Upset No. 3 Kentucky Wesleyan to Advance to Semifinals

by Josh Decker

The No. 6 Cedarville Yellow Jackets used a strong start and clutch free throws down the stretch to secure a 64-55 upset victory on the road Tuesday night against No. 3 Kentucky Wesleyan in the quarterfinal of the 2020-2021 G-MAC tournament.

The Yellow Jackets finished the night with three players in double-figures offensively. Quinton Green paced the Jackets’ offense with 20 points on 6-12 shooting from the field, including three triples. Junior Branden Maughmer dropped 13 points to go with six rebounds in 38 minutes of action, and junior Isaiah Speelman scored 10 points in the contest.

Senior Conner TenHove and junior Kollin VanHorn each added eight points, and VanHorn pulled in a team-high eight rebounds.

Green attributed his performance to his mentality recently.

“The past two games I have just been trying to focus on being aggressive in every facet of the game,” noted Green.

A Speelman triple opened the scoring in the game, and Cedarville’s offense started rolling fast. Combined with a strong defensive effort, the Jackets’ went up 9-2 by the first media timeout.

By the 10-minute mark, Cedarville had exploded to a 17-6 advantage. A couple turnovers, however, sparked the Kentucky Wesleyan offense, and the Panthers cut the deficit to three with just under four minutes left in the half.

With the score at 23-20, Green stepped up and drilled two 3-pointers in a row while Speelman hit a shot in the paint to give the Jackets’ a slight 31-29 lead going into the locker-room.

The Jackets’ shot 39 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes, and were 4-12, or 33 percent from behind-the-arc. The Jackets’ also controlled the glass in the first half by a 17-12 margin.

Cedarville started slow in the second half, only getting a bucket on one of their first eight possessions. A Branden Maughmer layup finally broke the drought as the Jackets’ held onto a 35-31 lead.

A Quinton Green 3-pointer extended the Cedarville lead to seven, but the Panthers would not go away. The Jackets’ pushed the lead to 52-44 with seven minutes remaining in the game, but Kentucky Wesleyan rallied back again to within two possessions.

Free throws were key down the stretch, and the Yellow Jackets’ calmly converted 8-10 from the stripe in the last couple minutes of the game to secure the 64-55 victory on the road.

“Really excited about the win- it wasn’t the prettiest game, but it was a great team win and a great first step in the postseason for us,” said Conner TenHove.

Cedarville shot slightly worse percentage-wise in the second half, and finished the game at 39 percent from the field while shooting 26 percent from behind-the-arc. The Jackets’ did finish the game, however, with an excellent 86 percent from the foul line on 19-22 shooting.

“We didn’t let the fact that we weren’t shooting well affect how we defended,” said head coach Pat Estepp after the game. “We stayed aggressive on offense, and I thought we did a good job in transition defense, especially in the second half.”

Cedarville controlled the boards in the game as well, outrebounding the Panthers 37-24 overall and finishing with 15 offensive rebounds.

“Winning the rebounding battle was a big key for us” said Estepp.

The Jackets’ led the points-in-the-paint category 24-14, and were smart with the ball, only committing nine turnovers on the night.

Cedarville will now prepare for a matchup against No. 2 Findlay in the semifinals of the G-MAC tournament. The game is set to be played on Friday, March 5th on the campus of Hillsdale College. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. as the Jackets’ look to build on the momentum and advance to the G-MAC championship.

“We are just focused on being the best version of ourselves that we can be because we feel like that is good enough to beat anyone,” remarked TenHove.

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.

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