Over the hump satisfying, but Jacobs wants more
The IHSA doesn't award a trophy for winning a sectional semifinal but no Jacobs boys basketball player or coach, past or present, needs hardware to appreciate the significance of Wednesday's 60-55 win over Hononegah at Elgin.
Officially the best team in school history by any objective measure, the 2016-17 Golden Eagles (29-1) broke through the sectional semifinal glass ceiling that previously proved an unbreakable barrier.
Jacobs has seen its share of top players. In the 1980s, the Golden Eagles had 1,000-point scorers like Tom Schafer, Mark Slimko and Craig Wojas.
Eric Verneisel came along in 2000-01 and scored 1,559 points over four seasons before matriculating at Cal.
And a decade ago the program enjoyed its best stretch with the emergence of Johnny Moran and Conrad Krutwig. Moran became the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,918 points before heading off to Northern Iowa. Krutwig, fourth on the school scoring list with 1,505 points, went on to help revive the program at Wisconsin-Parkside.
Great players all, but none of their teams soared as high as 6-foot-9 senior Cameron Krutwig and the current Golden Eagles, who will make the first sectional final appearance in school history on Friday at 7 p.m. against Larkin (19-14)
"It's stuff we talked about since we got here, but that's a huge hump," fourth-year Jacobs coach Jimmy Roberts of winning a sectional semifinal. "I mean, yeah, we're still hungry and we want to keep going, but that's a big hump that we just got over. We've had opportunities the past three years and it's a tough hump to get over."
Conrad Krutwig knows how hard it is to reach a sectional final. Now a Jacobs freshman coach, the 2009 graduate was on the bench Wednesday alongside his former teammates and fellow Jacobs assistant coaches, Timmy Moran and Zack Peterson. The closest their teams came to reaching the Sweet Sixteen was a 66-63 loss to Boylan in a 2008 sectional semifinal on their home floor.
"I think it's just this group of kids and how they've just battled throughout the whole year and Cam, obviously, having the experience for four years," Conrad Krutwig said of this group's success. "It's getting everybody on the same page and believing in the same goal. It's been fun to watch these kids grow up and achieve their goals."
It was fun for Cameron Krutwig, who led the Golden Eagles with 23 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists, to have his big brother present when the program they both love achieved a first.
"It means something to me, especially having him on the bench with me and stuff," Cam Krutwig said. "After the game I gave him a big hug and just said thank you and stuff like that. We just take it one game a time now. Anything can happen now. We're pushing."
"There's a legacy at Jacobs about the guys who have come through here like Johnny Moran, good players like that, Conrad who is still with us," said Jacobs senior Mason Materna, who finished with 13 points. "I mean, they never got past here so it's an amazing feeling to get past it and just be at the next step and be able to fight another day."
As Roberts has said throughout these playoffs, Jacobs' postseason run is the culmination of four years of work with a dedicated group of players, led by Cam Krutwig, who want Jacobs to be known as more than three-time Fox Valley Conference and three-time regional champions.
To be known as sectional champions, they'll have to get by Larkin, playing in it's hometown of Elgin.
"They're basically playing at home. They're right down the street," Cam Krutwig said. "It'll be a good environment, a good game."
And just maybe Jacobs will win its first sectional title.
They do award trophies for those.