by Josh Decker
Cedarville men’s basketball put together a strong performance and earned their third straight victory Saturday afternoon with a 74-71 victory over G-MAC newcomer Ashland.
The result improves the Yellow Jackets’ record this season to 4-3, including a strong 2-0 start in the G-MAC.
Branden Maughmer erupted for 27 points while pulling in 10 rebounds. Maughmer finished the game with an extremely efficient 9-10 shooting from the field and has now had a 27 plus point double-double in two straight games.
The senior explained what has led to his offensive production lately: “I’d say just playing confidently and seeing the game slow down. Just getting to my spots and shooting with confidence every time.”
Senior Kollin VanHorn scored 13 points and senior Isaiah Speelman added 10 points while going 2-3 from behind the arc.
“I think that win was really big for the team,” said Speelman. “That’s a really talented Ashland team, and I think the biggest key in the win was all of the guys stayed locked in. We had adversity and responded really well.”
The Jackets’ struggled early, committing three turnovers in the first six possessions and quickly falling behind 7-2 by the under-16 media timeout.
Cedarville responded by hitting four straight triples and scoring in five straight offensive possessions, including a Grant Whisman three-pointer to give the Jackets their first lead of the game at 16-15.
Cedarville’s effort and toughness on the defensive end translated to stops and the Yellow Jackets built up a 30-22 advantage with just under four minutes remaining in the first half.
Ashland hit a couple late shots in the first half to close the margin, with Cedarville finishing the first twenty minutes of play holding onto a narrow 32-29 lead.
Both teams were firing offensively, with the Jackets shooting 48 percent from the field and 46 percent from deep, while the Eagles were 44 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind-the-arc.
One of the main issues in the first half was ball security, as Cedarville had committed 10 turnovers to only two by Ashland.
Coming out of the break, the Jackets picked up right where they left off offensively, with Branden Maughmer hitting a mid-ranger and VanHorn drilling a pair of shots in the paint.
The offensive run for Cedarville led to a nine-point advantage for the Jackets, the largest lead of the night, forcing a timeout by the visitors.
Ashland responded again by closing the gap to three before Cedarville went up 48-41 with twelve minutes remaining.
The Yellow Jackets were unable to stretch the lead, however, and the rest of the game would remain tight.
The Eagles tied the game up with the score knotted at 54-54 before senior Conner TenHove battled for position inside the paint and converted on an and-1 shot to regain the lead for the Jackets.
Branden Maughmer continued to be unstoppable for Cedarville, seemingly scoring at will and propelling his team’s offense.
Entering the final three and a half minutes, the Jackets held a 65-61 lead.
Free throws would be key down the stretch, and VanHorn calmly knocked down back-to-back pairs of free throws.
With the score at 71-69, Maughmer earned another foul, going to the line with the chance to put the Jackets up two possessions.
Maughmer managed to convert on one shot and the game came down to one final defensive possession. After giving up a quick layup, Cedarville inbounded the ball and Speelman maintained control before an Ashland foul put him on the free throw line.
The Hilliard native dropped both shots in and the Jackets held on for a crucial 74-71 victory.
Cedarville finished the contest shooting 52 percent from the floor while Ashland finished at 49 percent. The Jackets cooled off from their 6-13 3-point shooting first half, ending the afternoon at a solid 39 percent.
The Jackets also controlled the glass, pulling in 29 boards compared to Ashland’s 24.
“I thought our guys played with a toughness about them all night,” said head coach Pat Estepp. “We limited their runs and stayed together throughout the game. Our bench gave us some really good minutes and Branden [Maughmer] had a tremendous game.”
Cedarville will return to the court on Thursday, Dec. 9th when the Yellow Jackets travel to rival Findlay for another G-MAC matchup. Tip-off for the game is set for 7:30 p.m.
Josh Decker is a senior 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.