CARY – Jacobs guard Kenton Mack had the 20-minute bus ride to Cary-Grove to consider the defensive assignment handed him by Golden Eagles coach Jimmy Roberts.
The 6-foot-1 junior learned he would be guarding Jason Gregoire, the area’s second-leading scorer at 18.7 points a game, who had been torching teams in recent games.
As monumental as the task was, Mack embraced it.
“I was happy,” Mack said. “That’s a challenge I took to myself. I’ve guarded Jason since the eighth grade and I know what he’s capable of. It’s always a challenge. I respect him a lot, he’s a great player.”
Mack’s tough defense limited Gregoire to six shots and zero points through three quarters. As a team, the Eagles held C-G to 22.0 percent shooting and defeated the Trojans, 47-31, in a pivotal Fox Valley Conference Valley Division boys basketball game at Elroy Fitzgerald Gymnasium.
The victory means Jacobs (13-12 overall, 7-3 FVC Valley) will host Huntley (16-7, 8-2) at 7 p.m. Friday with a chance to tie for the division lead.
“Now, [Friday’s game] means something,” Roberts said. “Our kids, our coaching staff did a great job focusing on the now. Because no other games matter unless you take care of business tonight.
“Cary-Grove’s been playing really well, had some big wins and this is a hard place to play. Everybody comes here and it’s a battle, and our kids responded.”
The Eagles defeated C-G (15-10, 7-4) on Jan. 21 with guard Ben Murray defending Gregoire, who scored nine points. Mack had suffered a bruised tailbone and hardly played in that game, so this time Roberts called on him. There were times when Murray took Gregoire, but Mack had him most of the game.
“You try to limit his touches as much as possible because so much of what they do goes through him,” Mack said.
Jacobs led only 25-18 after three quarters, but C-G had only four field goals at that point.
“It was great all-around team defense,” said guard Chrishawn Orange, who led all players with 16 points. “Everyone knew their jobs and what they had to do, stop Jason [Gregoire]. He’s a great player and he’s been doing great in this league. This is huge. Without this one, nothing else matters down the road.”
Orange hit 5 of 7 field goals and the Eagles scored 22 points in the fourth quarter to break the game open. Freshman forward Cameron Krutwig grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds and Mack added eight points.
Guard Tyler Szydlo led the Trojans with eight points, while Gregoire was held to six.
“Their athleticism with their guards was big,” Trojans coach Ralph Schuetzle said. “On most nights, Jason can get into the lane whenever he wants and he couldn’t do that tonight. They really made an effort to defend Jason and Tyler and if they give you an open shot, you have to prove you can make it. We average six or seven 3-pointers a game and we hit two. We had to make some open looks.”