Cedarville’s comeback to win NCCAA Division I championship will be long remembered

The No. 1 seed Yellow Jackets overcame a 19-point deficit to stun No. 2 Roberts Wesleyan, 64-58, to claim the NCCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.

Cedarville outscored the Redhawks 12-2 in the final three-plus minutes to win its second NCCAA banner at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center on the campus of Grace College.

However, it was the initial comeback that will long be remembered after Roberts Wesleyan sprinted to a 23-4 lead midway through the first half.

The Jackets ended the frame with a 22-3 explosion featuring a defense that held the Redhawks scoreless for the final eight minutes to forge a 26-26 deadlock by halftime.

CU inched out to a seven-point advantage with 10:30 to play, but Roberts recovered for a 56-52 margin at the 4:45 mark.

Following a pair of Grant Zawadzki free throws, back-to-back three-pointers by Colton Linkous completed an eight-point spurt with a minute left to give the Jackets the lead for good.

Conner TenHove, who was named the Tournament Most Outstanding Player, scored 14 points for Cedarville, which finishes the season 21-12.

Linkous came off the bench with 12 points and Kollin Van Horn chipped in 10.

“They (Roberts Wesleyan) came out swinging and I thought they played tremendous to start. They knocked us back on our heels, but I’m really proud of our guys. They kept fighting and kept chipping away,” said Cedarville head coach Pat Estepp. “We couldn’t get anything going offensively and we were turning it over. I’m just proud of the fight they showed. They just rattled off some stops and did an unbelievable job.

“We finally found a group that was working together defensively so we could get going in transition. We ended the half with a tie game and knew when we went it in at halftime we were starting over.

“They kept battling. They took a four-point lead late, but Colton (Linkous), Conner (TenHove) and some guys hit some big shots. A lot of different guys stepped up which has been the epitome of our team all year. I’m really proud of them!”

Stinger Notes:

  • TenHove was named to the NCCAA All-America Second Team.
  • Branden Maughmer earned a spot on the six-player all-tournament team.
  • Cedarville’s other NCCAA title came in 2012 – also coached by Estepp.
  • TenHove set a school record for single-season free throw percentage (.949) and is now CU’s career leader (.919).
  • Zawadzki’s .885 free throw percentage and 208 assists for the season both rank fifth, respectively, all-time at Cedarville.
  • The freshmen foursome of Maughmer, Van Horn, Quinton Green, and Isaiah Speelman averaged a combined 40.5 points per game.
  • As a team, the Yellow Jackets established a season record for free throw accuracy (.787).
  • Cedarville went 13-4 after January 10 and won nine of its last eleven games.
  • The Yellow Jackets lead the all-time series vs. Roberts Wesleyan, 14-5.

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