ALGONQUIN – It wasn’t a title game or one that really carried any implications whatsoever, but sometimes pride is a much more powerful motivator.
That’s the chip Crystal Lake South’s boys basketball team had to play when it entered Tuesday’s game against Jacobs, and protecting it warranted the fist pumps and cheers afterward. Thanks to a second half rally, the Gators beat the Golden Eagles, 54-51, to extend their end-of-the-year winning streak to three games – their longest of the season.
“We’re on a streak now and it’s good to get wins going into the playoffs,” said South guard Austin Rogers, who scored 10 of his game-high 20 points in the third quarter to help spark the Gators’ comeback.
South’s winning streak started after dropping a one-point heartbreaker to Prairie Ridge last Tuesday. The Gators marched into Dundee-Crown and upset the Chargers last Friday, then beat Marengo in a close non-conference game on Saturday.
And Jacobs, regardless of its record, commands respect on its home floor.
“I think it’s a sign of maturity,” South coach Matt LePage said. “We’re playing well at the right time so now we have to continue to play good basketball.”
The Gators (12-14 overall, 5-7 FVC Valley) came out of halftime with a sense of purpose, particularly on the glass. South nearly doubled its first half rebounding output (eight) in the third quarter, with Rogers accounting for six of the Gators’ 14 boards. South’s first two field goals in the third were putbacks – one from Rogers and the other from senior forward Max Meitzler – and it set the tone for the remainder of the game.
Meitzler’s second chance bucket just under 2 minutes into the third gave South its first lead, 34-33. Jacobs senior forward Lake Ojo’s putback at the 4:58 mark gave Jacobs the advantage again, 37-36, but Rogers converted on his third try of the Gators’ next possession to put South ahead 38-37.
Jacobs senior forward Will Schwerdtmann tied the game at 46 on a three-point play with 5:51 left in the fourth, and Schwerdtmann’s 3 with 1:32 remaining put Jacobs up 51-50. Meitzler answered with a field goal and senior guard Nick Geske hit a pair of free throws to finish South’s scoring, but the Gators nearly watched all their defensive efforts unravel in the final 18 seconds of play. Jacobs managed four three-point attempts to tie the game, but all four fell short.
The loss typified Jacobs’ struggles this year, which have included dropping the next game each time they reached .500. The Eagles (13-14, 7-5) could finish the regular season at .500 if they beat Woodstock at 7 p.m. Friday in an FVC crossover third-place game at Jacobs. The Blue Streaks and the Eagles finished third in their respective FVC divisions.
South will host Johnsburg at 7 p.m. Friday in a matchup between each division’s fourth place team.
“I think South wanted this game just a little bit more than we did tonight,” Jacobs coach Jim Hinkle said. Then, pointing to a table with cupcakes and other sweets situated just outside the Eagles’ locker room, he quipped, “We were going for the cupcakes. They were going for the win.”