CARY – Over the past four seasons, Jacobs has put together a remarkable stretch of dominance in McHenry County.
The Golden Eagles won the Fox Valley Conference’s Valley Division in consecutive years in 2014-15 and 2015-16. And when the FVC Valley and Fox Divisions consolidated into one conference last season, now known as the Fox Valley Conference, Jacobs won that as well.
Following their 38-37 road victory over Cary-Grove on Tuesday night, the Golden Eagles (21-3, 13-0 FVC) clinched this season’s FVC crown outright, too, in thrilling fashion – making it four consecutive years they’ve won a conference or division title.
It also was their 21st consecutive FVC victory.
“I walked in the locker room after the game and told our guys, ‘What the hell was that?’ “ Jacobs coach Jimmy Roberts said. “And they said to me, ‘A conference championship, coach.’ Then the kids all burst into applause and celebrated what they’d accomplished, and they deserve that moment for how hard they’ve worked.
“I didn’t pose the question to them because I thought they played poorly, or was disappointed in any way, but because it was kind of a sense of relief that a game that close was finally over. That was a battle to get out of there with a win. Winning our conference or division four straight years is a truly remarkable accomplishment.”
Jacobs senior guard Nik Balkcom’s layup with 27 seconds left in the game gave the Eagles a three-point cushion, and wound up being a huge insurance basket, because Trojans sophomore Frank Jakubicek sank a pair of free throws with 3 seconds to go, making it a one-point game.
Eagles senior Kameron Mack (eight points, nine rebounds, four steals) was fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass, and when he missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw situation, Jakubicek (12 points, six rebounds) pulled down the rebound, dribbled past the free-throw line, and heaved a desperation 3-pointer from three-quarters court that would’ve won the game. But it missed well above the top of the backboard.
Jacobs was without its top scorer, Ryan Phillips, who remains out with a fracture in his right ring finger, but Balkcom (eight points) said that wasn’t why the Eagles struggled to score down the stretch, going only 1 for 12 from 3-point range in the second half.
“We weren’t taking bad shots or anything,” Balkcom said. “They just weren’t falling. Our ball movement was great. Our intensity was there. It was just one of those nights where the other team gave us their best, and we can expect to see every team we face the rest of the season come after us that hard, too.”
The Eagles’ shooting woes allowed the Trojans (11-13, 7-7) to erase a 10-point first-quarter deficit, and Cary-Grove actually led by three briefly midway through the third. But the Trojans went cold late, too, going only 2 for 7 from the field in the fourth quarter, and had four separate chances to tie the game or take the lead in the final two minutes.
“It stings to lose a game this close, especially knowing it was against the top team in the conference,” C-G coach Adam McCloud said. “Sam Carhart (14 points) had another big game. We had chances late, and just couldn’t take advantage of them. Our kids keep getting better and better each week, and tonight is more proof of that.
“Sure, Jacobs was missing its top player. But we gave one heck of a defensive effort that would’ve held up even if they’d been at full strength, and we were in it until the final possession. That’s all you can ask for against such a good team. ... It was right there within our reach, and it slipped away.”