By Josh Decker
The Cedarville men’s basketball team put together a thrilling 76-73 victory over the visiting Walsh Cavaliers on Thursday night.
The victory marks the Jackets’ second straight win and moves Cedarville into first place in the G-MAC. The Jackets’ record now stands at 9-5 and 5-2 within the conference.
Senior Branden Maughmer scored 23 points, including a couple of key baskets down the stretch to lead the Jackets offensively.
Senior Conner TenHove finished with a double-double, dropping 15 points on 5-6 shooting from behind the arc and securing 11 rebounds.
“It was a big win for us moving forward,” TenHove said. “We knew what was at stake and wanted to defend our home court. We are a veteran team who doesn’t crack in those high-pressure moments because we are used to those situations.”
Senior Isaiah Speelman tallied 13 points, including three triples on 5-9 shooting from the field.
The Yellow Jackets exploded to an early 6-0 lead, but Walsh responded with a run of their own and the remainder of the half was tightly contested.
Cedarville went into the break at halftime with a narrow 34-32 advantage. The Jackets shot 38% from the field in the first twenty minutes, including a solid 40% from 3-point range.
Speelman came out and drilled a triple in Cedarville’s first offensive possession of the second half to push the lead to five and give the Jackets momentum.
With just under 12 minutes to play, however, the Jackets found themselves trailing 49-46.
The Cavaliers then extended the advantage by the under-8 media timeout to go up 58-52.
Cedarville fought back, and with just over four minutes to play, the Jackets forced a turnover as Maughmer sprinted down the court and finished at the rim to give Cedarville a 67-66 lead, forcing a Walsh timeout.
With the score deadlocked at 67-67 after a Walsh free throw, Maughmer pulled from the top of the key and drained another triple to put the Jackets up by three with 3:29 to play.
In the next possession, Kollin Van Horn calmly converted a pair of free throws to extend the lead to five, and after a big defensive stop, Maughmer took the ball to the hole again as the Jackets exploded to a 74-67 advantage.
Walsh closed the gap to 74-73 with under a minute to play, but a key defensive stand by Cedarville forced a Cavalier turnover as Isaiah Speelman grabbed the ball with 3.9 seconds left.
Walsh intentionally fouled Branden Maughmer, but he missed on the one-and-one.
Cedarville corralled the offensive rebound, and Jayvon Maughmer hit both free throws to put the game away and give the Jackets a 76-73 victory.
“I thought the guys showed a lot of toughness,” head coach Pat Estepp said. “If you want to have a shot at winning the league, protecting home court is crucial, and I think the crowd was a huge factor in the win as well.”
Cedarville finished the game shooting 44 percent from the field and a red-hot 48 percent from behind the arc.
Up next for the Yellow Jackets is a home matchup against Malone on Saturday, January 15th in another G-MAC face-off. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:15 P.M. as Cedarville looks for its third straight win.
Josh Decker is a senior Sports 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.