By John Bombatch
CEDARVILLE — A scoring run that started in the closing minutes of the first half, then expanded into the opening minutes of the second half, earned the Cedarville men’s basketball team a 70-61 win over the Ohio Christian Trailblazers, Wednesday night at the Callan Athletic Center on the Cedarville University campus.
Yellow Jackets coach Pat Estepp said he tried to emphasize the need to finish a half strong while starting the other just as strong, and it paid off Wednesday night.
“I think every good team knows how to close with a good first half and start a good second half,” Estepp said. “That’s one of the things we always talk about when we get to that 4-minute media timeout, and then we talk about it a lot at halftime. You’ve gotta finish a half well, and you’ve gotta start a half well, and I thought we did those two things well.”
All five Cedarville starters ended up scoring in double figures in the win. Dazhonetae Bennett led the Yellow Jackets with 19 points, Justice Montgomery added 14 points, Robert Okoro finished with 13 points and a game-high nine rebounds, J.C. Faubion finished with 11 points and Patrick Bain tossed in 10 to move Cedarville to a 3-4 overall record.
The Yellow Jackets brought full-court pressure for most of the contest, to make Ohio Christian work on every trip up the court.
Even still, the Trailblazers were able to take advantage of five consecutive Yellow Jacket misses from the free-throw line to pull within 65-57 with 2:04 left in the contest, but a Bennett 3-pointer from the right corner put Cedarville back out in front by double digits, 68-57.
Ohio Christian (5-6) never got any closer the rest of the way.
Trailblazers sophomore guard John Johnson tossed in a game-high 20 points in the loss, but he was the only OCU player to score in double figures. The Trailblazers will next play on Friday, Dec. 3 against Indiana University East, in Richmond, Ind.
Cedarville hit just 6 of 18 shots (33.3 percent) from the foul line for the game.
“I don’t know what’s going on there. We just couldn’t hit them tonight. It was like there was a lid on the rim,” Estepp said.
Neither team could muster much of a run in the early going. Ohio Christian took a slight four-point lead roughly midway through the first half, but Cedarville battled back with a 3-pointer from Bain and inside scores from Okoro and J.C. Faubion to tie things up at 17-all.
It was the Yellow Jackets who pulled out to a four-point advantage later in the half when Montgomery and Faubion each scored to grab a 29-25 lead with just under four minutes to play in the first half.
After a media timeout, Cedarville continued the scoring run with a pair of Bennett 3-pointers and another Faubion score, this time from the right wing, to put the Jackets on top, 37-27, with 1:41 left in the half.
The Jackets ran off a 12-5 run to start the second half, punctuated by Okoro’s no-look over-the-head reverse pass to Montgomery who raced in from the right baseline for the score. Cedarville was out in front 49-37 at that point.
Okoro said the play just came to him.
“I’ve never practiced that,” he laughed. “Maybe once in two years, but no.”
“He’s lucky that he made it,” Estepp said.
Cedarville (3-4) stays at home for its next game, and they’ll play a neighboring foe. The Yellow Jackets will host Wilberforce at 7:45 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3 at the Callan Athletic Center.