There is no real way to prepare for the playoff atmosphere most teams will be facing in the coming weeks, with crowd noise, nerves and weathering the inevitable runs that teams will go on. But Friday night at Hampshire was a pretty good warm-up.
The Jacobs boys basketball team was able to overcome a furious run from host Hampshire by going 13 of 17 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to secure a 68-55 victory in Fox Valley Conference crossover action.
With just under a minute left in the third quarter, Golden Eagles' coach Jimmy Roberts called a timeout as he saw his team's once double-digit lead fall to just 1. The trouble started right after the half, with Hampshire coming out of the locker room and hitting 3 straight 3-pointers, going on to score 19 in the quarter.
"We didn't defend real well, and they have some kids that can put the ball in the basket," Roberts said about the third. "It was a combination. We didn't defend as well as we normally do, and they made some plays. I think it was good they made a run at us because then we had to handle that situation. We did a good job of staying calm and executing. "
Luckily for the Golden Eagles (15-13), Chris Orange was on their side. With 5 minutes to go in the fourth and Jacobs clinging to a 2-point lead, Orange was able to make plays and get to the free-throw line 10 times, twice to complete a three-point play, hitting 9 of them to give him a game-high 26 points.
"It won't necessarily be (26) every night, but that's what Chris has become. There aren't many teams in our area that can have somebody that can match up and defend him," Roberts said. "He was very calm and under control tonight and made some huge baskets."
"I just try to go one-by-one, get one free-throw down at a time," Orange said.
Jacobs put its mark on the game early, with Ben Murray (8 points) and Reilly Peltier (6 points) scoring in the first half, along with Orange, to give the Golden Eagles a 30-20 lead at the break.
While Orange did have help throughout the game from his teammates, most notably Kenton Mack who scored 6 in the final frame to finish with 11, and freshman Cameron Kurtwig, who finished with 10, Orange knows that if need be, he can make an impact on the game.
"They're both great players. Kenton has a good jump shot and can take it to the rack hard, and Cam has some good post moves," Orange said. "I try to get them the ball the best I can, share the ball to start, but if I need to have my handprint on the game then I know I can do it."
Ryan Cork and Matthew Bridges both tried to get the Whip-Purs (13-14) back into the game in the third, but could not maintain the shots down the stretch.
"We missed a couple of layups that could have given us the lead, and then down the stretch we lost a little bit of composure when we got down by 7," Whip-Purs' coach Bob Barnett said. "Then they go to the line and go (13 of 17) and that's why we lose by 15."
Cork had 8 of his 17 points in the third frame but struggled shooting the ball in the quarters before, going just 1 of 8 from the field, hitting a lone 3 in the second quarter. Bridges, who finished with 14 points, was able to go 8-for-10 from the charity stripe but had a problem making baskets, hitting only two on the night.
For Barnett, it wasn't the missed shots that he saw from Cork, but the fatigue that produced them that was the problem.
"We got good looks but just didn't knock them down; in the fourth quarter we got tired. I'm trying to give him as much rest as I can," Barnett said. "His legs got tired and that's when you're going to come up short."
A Drew Doran 3-pointer for his first basket gave Hampshire its only lead of the night, 3-2, igniting a raucous student section that stayed that way most of the night. Doran scored 11 points for the Whips while freshman Brennen Woods finished with 11 as well.