Guarding Cary-Grove junior Jason Gregoire and his 18.8 points-per-game average is no easy task, but Jacobs guard Kenton Mack clearly took to the assignment in a pivotal 47-31 road win Tuesday.
Mack, a 6-foot-2 junior, got occasional help on Gregoire from teammates Ben Murray and Mike Canady, but he was primarily responsible for holding Cary-Grove's leading scorer to 6 points on 2-of-11 shooting.
"I wasn't surprised," said Mack, who was told after school by coach Jimmy Roberts he would cover Gregoire. "At the beginning of the season (Roberts) said he thinks I can be one of the best defenders in the conference, so I just took it as a challenge."
Gregoire missed 5 first-half attempts and the Trojans shot 3 of 21 from the field in falling behind 19-11 at halftime.
"They were just tenacious, all their defenders, (Mack, Murray, Canady), they were all really physical with me and they played really good defense on me," Gregoire said. "It was just hard to get going because of their physicality."
Though Cary-Grove (15-10, 7-4) made just 4 field goals in the first three quarters, the Trojans were still in the ballgame, trailing 25-18. However, the Golden Eagles outscored the Cary-Grove 22-13 in the final period to put a stranglehold on second place in the Valley Division of the Fox Valley Conference. The victory improved the Golden Eagles to 13-12 overall and 7-3 in the FVC Valley, a game behind three-time defending champion Huntley, which defeated McHenry 53-33 Tuesday to improve to 16-7, 8-2.
"They did a great job of focusing on the now," Roberts said of his players. "No other games matter unless you take care of tonight. Cary-Grove has been playing really well. They've had some big wins. This is a hard place to play. It seems like everybody comes in here and it's a battle. Our kids responded. I couldn't be more proud, especially with what's looming, potentially."
What's looming for Jacobs is a showdown against Huntley on Friday at 7 p.m. The Golden Eagles conclude FVC Valley play at Dundee-Crown next Tuesday.
"It was huge because without this win, nothing else matters down the road from here," said Jacobs junior guard Chrishawn Orange, who led all scorers with 16 points. "We really had to secure this win. Now Friday matters and the game against D-C matters.
Cary-Grove drew within 27-20 early in the fourth quarter on a transition basket by senior Devin McDonough, but the Golden Eagles answered with a 3-pointer from Cory Boeckh and followed with a fast-break bucket from Orange, a play ignited by a blocked shot from Grant.
Tyler Szydlo scored 8 points to lead the Trojans. Mack finished with 8 points for the Golden Eagles.