Jacobs boys basketball coach Jimmy Roberts had a goal in mind from the day he was hired last April, and he brought the blueprint to achieve it.
The goal "since Day 1," he said, was to win a regional championship.
The blueprint was to instill toughness and a high competitive level within his players. And he wanted them to play basketball with passion.
Less than 11 months later the Golden Eagles are regional champions for the first time since 2008, thanks to a stellar defensive effort throughout Friday's 44-33 victory over rival Dundee-Crown in the Class 4A Crystal Lake Central regional title game.
"Toughness, compete, and play with passion. Those are the three things we can control," Roberts said after posing for pictures with his team and the regional plaque. "You can't control shots going in some nights, but if we defend, compete and play with passion, we're going to be OK. I think that's how we won tonight. We didn't shoot it well (40.5 percent) and we didn't play great offensively, but (Dundee-Crown) had a very difficult time scoring."
That's an understatement. No. 3 seed Jacobs (18-13) held No. 5 Dundee-Crown (10-18) to 9 first-half points on 4-of-16 shooting.
The Chargers, who entered with a season-high, 3-game winning streak, managed only 3 points in the third quarter and trailed 28-12 entering the final period. D-C made its inevitable run in the fourth quarter but drew no closer than 7 points.
"They really did a good job of taking our primary scorers out of the game and it was a challenge all night long to find a way to score," D-C coach Lance Huber said. "I thought their defense was really good and they executed really well."
The win was the fifth straight for the Golden Eagles and their seventh in eight games. They limited opponents to an average of 39 ppg during that stretch. That number dipped to 34.7 ppg in 3 playoff victories.
"If they don't score, they can't win," Jacobs senior guard Ben Murray said. "If we can do that for four quarters, we're going to be tough. It's just the principles: trail your man around screens, chop your feet on close outs. We knew if we just stayed solid and stayed with our principles, we'd be fine and we'd be able to pull it out."
Getting to this point was a process. Jacobs opened the season 0-3 and was 6-9 at one point, but the toughness quotient was never obscured by the fog of a sub-.500 record at midseason.
"We're resilient," junior guard Kenton Mack said. "We bounce back from everything and we're a together group. With all the things we've been through this season -- there have been a lot of ups and a whole lot of downs -- I think that's brought us together very well."
Jacobs now advances to an Elgin sectional semifinal on Wednesday to face another surging team with a first-year coach: Matt Petersen's South Elgin Storm. They followed up Tuesday's upset of sectional favorite Larkin with a 76-62 victory over St. Charles East to win that program's second regional title.
Tough, competitive, passionate Jacobs is ready to keep playing, no matter the opponent.
"Going on to the sectional and having a chance to win? It's awesome," said guard Chrishawn Orange, who led Jacobs with 14 points. "We've been working all season for this. This was our main goal, pretty much."
"It's a goal we set and reached, but it's not the end," Mack reminded." I guess we just have to set more goals."