CARY – When the Jacobs boys basketball team started the season with four straight losses, coach Jim Hinkle didn’t have to look far to figure out why.
Not enough rebounding. Not enough finding ways to get to the free-throw line.
But when the Golden Eagles did both in their Fox Valley Conference Valley Division opener Saturday night against Cary-Grove, the victory that had eluded Jacobs suddenly fell into place. A clutch shot when the Eagles needed it most certainly didn’t hurt.
Will Schwerdtmann’s 3-pointer with 2:05 remaining gave Jacobs a late lead, but four straight Blake Micel free throws in the final 16.5 seconds was what put the finishing touches on a 55-48 victory.
“We just hit the boards hard and we just stepped it up,” Schwerdtmann said. “That made the game.”
Jacobs (1-4, 1-0 FVC Valley) trailed throughout the first three quarters, helpless to do anything about C-G’s sharp shooting touch, especially in the first half. Despite cooling off, the Trojans (5-2, 0-1) still led 48-46 with 3 minutes to play, but then failed to score as Jacobs made its final push.
Schwerdtman’s 3-pointer gave Jacobs a 49-48 lead before a Lake Ojo offensive rebound and putback and Micel’s four free throws made the difference.
The Golden Eagles’ closing stretch was in stark contrast to the first quarter when Hinkle pulled all five of his starters early on, sitting them most of the opening eight minutes.
“[C-G] started out on fire, and we just needed a wake-up call,” said senior forward Nick Ledinsky, who led Jacobs with 16 points. “But we played well the rest of the way.”
The Trojans, meanwhile, weren’t able to sustain their start. Jacobs’ offensive and defensive rebounding edge allowed the Golden Eagles to push the tempo. That forced C-G – which was led by Jason Gregoire’s 17 points – out of their comfort zone.
And while Jacobs made the most of their 12 free throws – hitting eight – the Trojans faltered from the line, factoring into the disappointing loss.
“When you go 9 for 20, you’re not going to win any games,” C-G coach Ralph Schuetzle said. “But you’ve got to give them credit – they came back, they made tough shots and we just kind of fizzled offensively.”