By: Alan Brads
Pressure mounted, tempers flared and tension built to the point of explosion, escalating to a raucous celebration after the Yellow Jackets’ 72-65 victory.
These two schools competed in last year’s conference championship game, with Walsh winning the title, but a determined core group of Cedarville upper-classmen refused to let Walsh halt another winning streak.
Every Walsh-Cedarville game is intense, and this game was no exception. Cedarville’s play embodied the cliche of blood, sweat and tears.
The box score told a nearly equal story for each side, but through the final stretch one thing set Cedarville apart.
“Toughness,” said Chris Rogers, who amassed a career high 18 points. “The difference today was toughness.”
Hardly a bucket came easy for either team all night. Cedarville battled through an array of cramps, nosebleeds, hand injuries, foul trouble and sickness.
Head coach Pat Estepp said that Jacob Drees was “Not even two-thirds” of his normal self after battling multiple days of severe illness.
“That was just his will,” Estepp said of Drees’ performance. “He was zapped, he didn’t do anything in practice yesterday.” Despite not practicing, and suffering inward illness and outward abuse from an aggressive Walsh defense, Drees snagged 10 rebounds, dished four assists and recorded a pair of blocks.
“You’re not gonna beat Walsh if you’re not gonna play tough.” Coach Estepp said. “It just came down to our guys gutting it out. With about seven minutes left you could see in their eyes they were starting to teeter. If you’re gonna be a championship team you gotta find it at that moment, and they found it.
From the first few possessions of the game it felt like all 655 in attendance knew it would come down to the wire. Neither team ever led by double digits, and the lead was captured nine times and tied 6 more times.
Jayvon Maughmer, Chris Rogers, and Grant Whisman led the way for Cedarville, combining for 59 of the Yellow Jackets’ 72 points. With Drees partially out of commission and an otherwise young roster, the three upperclassmen stepped up when they were most needed.
The GMAC standings highlight the importance of this win as Cedarville jumped Malone into fourth place. Six teams will qualify for the GMAC tournament, but if Cedarville can extend their three-game winning streak, the Yellow Jackets can shift their focus from qualification to seeding.
These two schools will play at least once more this year on February 23 in North Canton and have the potential to meet again in the conference tournament.
Cedarville continues their grueling stretch of action at home at 4:15 PM on Saturday, January 21, hosting the Lake Erie Storm.
Alan Brads is a sophomore journalism student and frequent contributor for Cedars. He enjoys playing the drums and speaking Spanish, and watches Buckeye football like his life depends on it.