CRYSTAL LAKE – Jim Hinkle could look past the three-quarter court heave that beat the second-quarter buzzer. What he couldn’t live with, though, was a Jacobs defensive effort he felt had been lacking all night.
So rather than dwell on the highlight reel 3-pointer that put the Golden Eagles in a six-point hole Friday night against Crystal Lake South, Hinkle pleaded at halftime for more aggressiveness, insisting that if Jacobs didn’t start with shutting down the Gators in the second half, it wouldn’t matter how many shots the Eagles hit.
His message came across loud and clear as Jacobs only allowed 16 second-half points after giving up 21 in the second quarter alone, helping spell the difference in a 55-51 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division win Friday night.
But as much as the defense turned around, Lake Ojo and Will Schwerdtmann made sure the offense held up its end of the bargain when it counted.
Ojo scored seven of his team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter when the Golden Eagles finally wrestled the lead away from the Gators, who connected on only 3-of-13 shots in the final eight minutes.
“Our defense really starts everything,” Ojo said. “We were getting turnovers, taking away their confidence and slowly building ours. We just steamrolled from there.”
Jacobs (11-9 overall, 4-2 FVC Valley) trailed from the start, falling behind 10-2 immediately and trailing by as many as nine in the third quarter. Eric Schiller helped South’s cause with a line-drive, 70-foot buzzer-beater that seemed fitting for the way the Gators (6-12, 1-5) had shot the ball from the start.
That didn’t do much to improve Hinkle’s mood.
“We weren’t very happy – they were shredding us,” Hinkle said. “But we just said, ‘Let’s get after it and they really did a super job defensively. It turned the game around.”
Jacobs saved its best for last. After a last-second Chrishawn Orange basket got the Golden Eagles to within 45-42 to start the fourth quarter, Ojo and Will Schwerdtmann (12 points) sparked Jacobs down the stretch.
The lead went back and forth for first 5 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter, an Orange drive put Jacobs up for good with 1:39 remaining before Ojo sealed the win with two free throws with 59 seconds left.
South - which got 15 points from Nick Geske and 11 from Schiller and Austin Rogers - didn’t score for the final two minutes, unable to finish what had started so positively.
“We played hard enough to win ... but then we’d go into a stretch where we’d miss and open shot or two and they’d come down and get a lay-up,” said South coach Matt LePage, whose team was 0-for-7 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter. “I was proud of the way they played – the ball just didn’t bounce our way.”