Clutch shooting lifts South Elgin over Cary-Grove
It was like a high-stakes game of try to top this.
The South Elgin boys basketball team answered Cary-Grove big shot for big shot down the stretch to claim the program's first Class 4A regional title since 2014 with a 66-60 victory in South Elgin Friday.
When Cary-Grove junior Frank Jakubicek sank a 3-pointer from the corner to draw his team within 47-44, South Elgin senior guard Drake Montgomery responded with a tap-in at the other end.
When Cary-Grove junior guard Beau Frericks drained a 3-pointer with 4:30 left to draw the Trojans within 51-50, Montgomery answered with a four-point play that gave his team a 55-51 lead with 3:01 left.
"We knew we had to retaliate," said Montgomery, who led all scorers with 27 points.
When Jakubicek sank another 3-pointer from the same corner spot to make it a 2-point game, South Elgin freshman Lane McVicar canned a 3-pointer of his own to stake the Storm to a 58-53 lead with 2:18 remaining.
"I live for those moments, those shots," said the 15-year-old McVicar. "Coach trusts me with those shots. That's what I work on."
No. 1 Cary-Grove (21-8) pulled within 58-55 after a putback by senior forward Ryan Rice with 1:58 to play, but South Elgin senior Vince Miszkiewicz had the ultimate answer, a two-hand slam after he rebounded a missed free throw with 1:37 left.
"Every time we got close they just made another play and another play," Cary-Grove coach Adam McCloud said. "They miss a free throw, they get the offensive rebound, the four-point play. Just those little things where it's like we're right there and then they take it back.
"Outstanding job by them. They're an outstanding team. I felt like it was two really good teams playing and they just made more plays."
No. 3 South Elgin (24-8), which sets a new school record for single-season wins with every victory, advances to face Harlem (20-11) in a Rock Valley College sectional semifinal in Rockford on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
"It's the best feeling in the world," said Miszkiewicz, who finished with 19 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 steals. "It was a hard-fought game until the end. We did a lot of preparing, a lot of teamwork. We played as a team tonight and it showed. I'm overjoyed. First regional in five years. This was my career goal, to win a regional for the school, and it's not over yet."
South Elgin played zone defense the majority of the game, but Frericks, who scored 33 points in a 70-62 victory over South Elgin on Dec. 22, still scored 26 points to lead the Trojans, He sank 5-of-10 attempts from 3-point range.
The Trojans jumped to a 7-0 lead but the Storm finished the first quarter on a 19-5 run and led 34-27 at halftime.
Cary-Grove twice drew within 2 points in third quarter but still trailed 47-42 heading to the fourth.
"We've always known how to fight back," third-year South Elgin coach Brett Johnson said. "We did that in this game. They were up early and had a few runs ... The great players on this team stepped up when they had to and we had younger guys make great plays down the stretch. When you do that, you're going to win games."
Cary-Grove was denied its first regional title since 2001, but the Jacobs holiday tournament champions enjoyed their first 20-win season since that year. Leading scorers Frericks and Jakubicek return next season.
"They'll remember this game and they'll use it," McCloud said. "To win 21 games, to win the Jacobs Tournament, all great things but I think we have bigger goals in mind so the guys are disappointed. I told them it's not about one game. You have to take a look at the whole season and reflect back, but that's hard to do when you're 17. This one hurts."
Jakubicek finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds, and Daniel Sowa and David Aulert each contributed 6 points for the Trojans.
McVicar and seniors Jace Warrick and Trace Ashby each scored 7 points for the Storm.