Forty seconds in, his first 3-pointer fell. Two minutes later he dropped another. At that point you knew what kind of night Jacobs guard Nik Balkcom was going to turn in.
Balkcom blazed out of the gate and connected on four 3s in the first half, 5 overall and a game-high 19 points and 6 rebounds for No. 2 seed Jacobs, which cruised to a 61-39 win over No. 8 Cary-Grove during a Class 4A Dundee-Crown regional semifinal Tuesday.
The senior sizzled on a 7-for-10 clip shooting as Balkcom knocked down the first 2 shots for Jacobs and buried all 3 of his shots in the second quarter, when the Golden Eagles (25-3) put up 22 points to run away with it and grab their third win over the Trojans (11-14) this season, but more importantly, secure a spot in Friday's regional final, where they can win their fourth title in five years.
"I really kept letting them go, during the first half and even a little bit during the second half and it really boosted my confidence," Balkcom said. "In the first half they had a box-and-one and they were facing (Kameron Mack) and that kind of left other guys open. We just hit the open shots and we have other threats who can make shots."
Jacobs, which awaits the winner of Wednesday's semifinal between No. 3 St. Charles East vs. No. 6 Dundee-Crown, totaled 10 3s and shot a blistering 53.6 percent from the field. The Golden Eagles can really thank their second quarter, where they shot 9 of 15 and outscored C-G 22-11. After Frank Jakubicek cut it the deficit to 21-17 on a left wing 3 with 3:20 to go, Jacobs outscored the Trojans 13-2 to end the half up by 15. Senior forward Daniel Murray scored 7 of his 13 points during that stretch, which included 3s by him, Mack (7 points) and Balkcom while the Trojans helped the cause with 7 turnovers in the quarter.
"Our defense is a big thing," Murray said. "We get stops and then we go down and put it on people. It's good to always start it on the defensive end and run it in transition. We get open looks and it helped we knocked a lot of them down, today."
Cary-Grove didn't fare well from the field on 17 of 39 shooting for 43.5 percent. Beaumont Frericks led the way with 14 points to go with 4 steals but the Trojans didn't want to get into a track meet knowing they couldn't beat the Eagles in the spread, according to coach Adam McCloud.
"They have too many horses and their defense is better than it was in the regular season," said McCloud, whose team totaled 18 turnovers. "They continue to get better and defensively they're a nightmare."
Jacobs also won its 11th straight game and scored 60 points for the first time in five games.
"Here they are 25-3 after the great year we had last year," Jacobs coach Jimmy Roberts said. "All to really get to these points and play in these environments, our kids are excited. We said a lot about the game to get to the game. Well know we're to that game and we have two days to prepare and do what we do best and give ourselves the best opportunity on Friday against whoever it may be."