Weary Jackets unable to weather the Storm in a 9-point defeat

by Jonathan Snyder

The Cedarville Yellow Jackets fell to Lake Erie Storm 81-70 in a game that saw little interior defense for the Jackets.

The team came into this game after a physical contest against conference rival Walsh on Thursday, and the Jackets were feeling the effects of the previous battle throughout the first half.

From the opening tip, it was clear that the Storm would make the Jackets work for the win, with double teams on the sidelines and quick ball movement forcing the Jackets to play at a fast tempo.

Even with the effort shown by Lake Erie, the offense was slow for both sides for the first 10 minutes with both sides only scoring a combined 22 points.

Kyle Thomas, a freshman guard for Cedarville, delivered moments of inspiration coming off the bench as the primary spark for a 12-3 run which saw Cedarville grab a momentary lead. Thomas would end the game with a career-high 23 points.

Unfortunately for the Jackets, they could never find the offense needed to extend the lead past a couple of points. The Storm made quick use of their inside scoring presence to extend their advantage into the double digits at the half. The Storm would end the game with 38 points in the paint. The Jackets had little answers for the Storm’s inside scoring ability.

Head coach Pat Estepp praised the Storm’s ability to close out games, “They’ve had 11 games this year decided by six points or less, and they’ve been in every game against the best teams in our league… they’re really talented.”

Estepp also addressed the Jackets’ shortcomings, citing the contest’s physicality as key to the Storm’s success. “We knew coming off of a game Thursday night…that it was going to be tough. We had too many defensive breakdowns, and we didn’t guard well inside the three-point line at all. We just got driven way too much today.”

Estepp was not blind in his criticism, however, praising the mental grit of his team when they were down by double digits. He would shout out Thomas’ play as well as David Okpara, a freshman center, for giving the Jackets much-needed life off the bench.

This loss has the Jackets looking at a dogfight for the final three spots in the GMAC tourney with 10 games to go. Cedarville currently is in fourth place in the GMAC, with fourth through ninth place only separated by one game.

The Jackets have a critical matchup on the road against the GMAC leading Hillsdale on January 26th to keep their playoff dreams a reality.

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