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Jacobs boys basketball coach Jim Hinkle said it was just a semifinal game, but with his career on the line, the fist pumps he provided with 46 seconds left in the game told the story.
After No. 2 seed Dundee-Crown came close to erasing a 17-point third quarter deficit, the foul to Chrishawn Orange concluded matters for the 71-year-old coach and his team, and he just couldn't contain himself any longer.
Hinkle managed his way around the bench as Orange went to the free throw line, pumping his fists emphatically, a statement to signal No. 3 Jacobs' 50-45 Class 4A semifinal win Wednesday night over the Chargers in Algonquin.
Hinkle not only won his final game against Dundee-Crown, a school he coached at for 7 seasons, he'll get to coach in Friday night's regional final on his home floor against top-seeded Crystal Lake Central.
It will be a tough task to say the least to outlast the Tigers, but there may have been no tougher task than trying to keep the Chargers away. After Jacobs (18-14) built a 17-point lead in the early stages of the third quarter, D-C (19-6) roared back with a 14-3 run led by Brandon Rodriguez, who scored 15 of his 26 points in that stretch. D-C got the lead down to 4 on two occasions in the fourth, the latest coming on a Dylan Kissack putback with 2:04 to make 44-40. D-C never got closer as Jacobs sealed the game at the line.
"When your career is on the line, it's really fun to play a game like that," said Hinkle. "We had two lapses, one in each half that cost us five or six points, like within seconds. Lost our focus, threw the ball in and Rodriguez really got hot. He's good. We were in his face but he was still knocking them down.
"They embarrassed us pretty good over at their place last game (a 60-44 D-C win). We've been looking at this game for a long time. I've been looking at it all year. Soon as we knew what the regional was, we knew what it would come down to."
It came down to whether Jacobs could hold a lead. After outscoring D-C 25-13 at the half, limiting D-C's dribble penetration and shooting to a 29 percent clip on 17 shots. where D-C hit only 5 shots and managed just 2 points on free throws in the second quarter, D-C's tipping point came in the third after Orange nailed his second 3-pointer from deep in the left wing with 6:55 remaining to put Jacobs up 30-13.
"We didn't execute in the first half at all defensively or offensively, so we had to step it up big in the second half," Rodriguez said. "I found my shot after I got the first and-one and I just wanted the ball to keep going to me, so I could get my team back in the game."
Rodriguez countered Jacobs' tough defense by going 5 for 7 in the final 5:27 of the third. A key sequence to get D-C back was when Rodriguez was fouled on a spin that put him to the line. He missed, grabbed 1 of his 12 rebounds, and was fouled again. After sinking both free throws, he stole the inbounds pass for a layup and the lead was down to 11 in a 31-second stretch. Rodriguez later converted another and-one, and nailed back-to-back 3s. Rodriguez was 10 for 20 from the field with 3 steals and 4 offensive rebounds.
"He just got hot, there's nothing else to say," said Jacob s' Nick Ledinsky, who scored 12 points. "Those games have always gone like that throughout our high school career. It's nothing we couldn't handle."
Jacobs got it back to double digits early in the fourth but Rodriguez bumped his way into another 3-point play with 6:44 left and his baseline jumper with 6 minutes remaining cut Jacobs' lead to 4.
"B-Rod basically kept us in the game," said Chargers coach Lance Huber, whose team shot 16 for 42 from the field. "He kept us in the game and we just couldn't get a stop when we needed one. Actually, we got a couple stops, we had it down to 4 with the ball and we couldn't get a score when we needed one."
Jacobs edged out D-C by a point in the final 6 minutes, canning 9 of 11 at the line.
"They had their run but we withstood and with team defense," said Orange, who led Jacobs with 15 points. "We really just said let's D-up, let's get a rebound. We knew they were going to foul so let's just be strong with the ball, just take the foul and knock down our free throws."