The McHenry boys basketball team made Fox Valley Conference leader Jacobs rally for a 42-41 home win Tuesday, and the Golden Eagles appreciated every excruciating minute of it.
Unaccustomed to being challenged in a league in which it has lost once, Jacobs (25-1, 14-1) was forced to rally from a 39-30 deficit after McHenry's Patrick Breisch converted a turnover into a breakaway layup with 4:07 left.
The Golden Eagles responded with a 12-2 run to close the game and clinch no worse than a share of their third straight title in the FVC. They can win the title outright Friday with a win against rival Dundee-Crown on Senior Night.
Junior guard Ryan Phillips scored 6 points during the closing push, including a 3-pointer to ignite it and the go-ahead free throws with 26.3 seconds left.
McHenry had a chance to win the game, but Gavin Markgraff's shot from the elbow between a double team of Jacobs guards Cooper Schwartz and Nikolas Balkcom caromed off the back iron with a second left and time expired.
"It just came down to the last possession of the game," said Jacobs senior Cam Krutwig, who scored consecutive baskets to trim the deficit to 41-40. "It was good for us to play in a game like that because we've never played in a one-possession game before. That kind of battle-tested us. When a game gets close like that the competitor comes out in you and you just fight. We did a good job."
Both teams turned the ball over twice in the final 1:08. Trailing by a point, Jacobs finally regained possession on a steal by Phillips on the press. After a timeout, he was fouled with 26.3 left and came through at the line.
"We had one goal in mind and that was to win the game," said Phillips, who finished with 9 points. "In that situation I just wanted to knock them in for my team. It was more important after we shot free throws to get a stop on defense."
The Golden Eagles had made only 3 of 7 free throws prior to Phillips' attempts.
"We've talked about it all year: Free throws are either going to make or break at some point," Jacobs coach Jimmy Roberts said. "Free throws are going to be huge and we've really emphasized it. (Phillips) was nothing but net on both of those, I think. Talk about toughness. He didn't shoot it well all night. He made a big three in the fourth to start our run, but he played poorly all night. To knock in two free throws like that says a lot about him as a kid."
Jacobs led 23-20 at halftime, but the 6-foot-9 Krutwig picked up his third foul 26 seconds into the third quarter and remained glued to the bench for the entire quarter. In his absence, the Warriors reversed a 15-9 first-half rebounding deficit by forging a 10-3 advantage on the glass. Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles missed 9 of 11 shots and fell behind 31-28 by the end of the quarter.
McHenry (16-11, 11-4) played good defense all night but the Warriors missed 9 of their 18 free-throw attempts.
"We had some untimely turnovers, but what hurt us more than anything was we missed 9 free throws in the game," McHenry coach Tim Paddock said. "The first half we missed 7 and we missed a couple of key one-and-ones at the end."
Markgraff led McHenry with 14 points wile Gio Calabrese sank three 3-pointers after missing 5 games due to injury.
Mason Materna and Krutwig (12 rebounds) each scored 10 points to lead the Golden Eagles.