CRYSTAL LAKE – Will Benson and Jim Roberts interviewed for Jim Hinkle's former job as Jacobs boys basketball coach about two months ago.
But at the Gary Collins Shootout on Friday at Crystal Lake South, both men stood on opposite sides of the same court in new roles, with Hinkle looking on like a proud father.
Roberts ended up succeeding Hinkle, but Benson, who last season coached the Jacobs sophomore team, became the new head coach at Marengo.
"[Hinkle] stopped into practice the other day, because he's still around school, just to peek in," Roberts said. "When somebody like that is there watching, you just hope that he's proud of the product that he sees."
The Golden Eagles lost 12 seniors – the core of their team – after last season, but defeated a veteran Indians squad, 45-26, in the first game of pool play for each team.
Benson denied any added pressure or awkwardness with facing his former players.
"It wasn't about me or anything," he said. "The kids and I have a good relationship regardless, and it was good to see them actually."
But Marengo, with its smaller school and much smaller frontcourt, surprised the Golden Eagles with its defensive intensity. The Indians tied the score, 9-9, early in the first half, and after an 8-3 Jacobs run, a three-pointer by sophomore Zach Knobloch brought Marengo within 17-15 and reinvigorated its staunch defense.
"I saw our guys when we came in the gym and went to warm up before the game, and they didn't have bounce," Roberts said of his summer team, which included three seniors, three juniors and freshman Cameron Krutwig. "They didn't have energy, and they weren't getting the sweat going ... as a result, the game starts and that's how we play."
Junior guard Chrishawn Orange, a returning starter from last season, intervened at halftime to awaken the Jacobs offense.
"In the second half I told them, 'Let's go, turn it up, let's get this win,' " Orange said. "Coach looks at me to lead the team, so I try my best to be a vocal player out there."
As a result, Jacobs went into overdrive and used a 26-9 run, fueled by drives to the basket by Krutwig and junior Kenton Mack and post-ups from senior Nick Anderson, to turn a six-point halftime lead into a motivating result for both teams.
"We're just trying to get better," Benson said. "... I always like coming back here [to the Gary Collins Shootout]. It's close, you see a lot of different teams, and especially because ... I don't know if there are any other Big Northern (Conference) teams here."
For Jacobs, which played in summer tournaments at McHenry and Loyola Academy and in the Wauconda summer league, this tournament marks the end of a gritty first summer under Roberts.
"We've been grinding pretty hard," Roberts said.
Gary Collins Shootout
at Crystal Lake South
Pool Play Scores
Larkin 76, McHenry 39
Marian Central 59, Rockford Jefferson 51
Rockford East 58, CL Central 37
Huntley 39, Sycamore 27
Prairie Ridge 49, DeKalb 42
Buffalo Grove 60, CL Central 41
Larkin 66, Sycamore 18
Rockford Jefferson 57, DeKalb 48
Rockford East 59, Buffalo Grove 48
Huntley 48, McHenry 44
Cary-Grove 65, CL Central 25
Prairie Ridge 45, Marian Central 34
Rockford East 53, Cary-Grove 42
Prairie Ridge 52, Rockford Jefferson 50
Larkin 56, Huntley 42
McHenry 58, Sycamore 24
DeKalb 65, Marian Central 48
Cary-Grove 52, Buffalo Grove 47
CL South 82, Woodstock North 36
Jacobs 44, Marengo 26
Woodstock 55, St. Edward 34
Wauconda 46, Harlem 42
CL South 62, Wauconda 28
Jacobs 55, St. Edward 53
Harlem 49, Woodstock North 33
Woodstock 47, Marengo 45
Jacobs 39, Woodstock 38
CL South 60, Harlem 41
Wauconda 50, Woodstock North 42
St. Edward 48, Marengo 37
Prairie Ridge (3-0)
Rockford Jefferson (1-2)
Marian Central (1-2)
Rockford East (3-0)
Buffalo Grove (1-2)
CL Central (0-3)
CL South (3-0)
Woodstock North (0-3)
St. Edward (1-2)
Saturday's Championship Bracket Schedule
Opening rounds, 11 a.m.
Quarterfinals, 2 p.m.
Semifinals, 4 p.m.
Championship, 5 p.m.