CRYSTAL LAKE – Will Benson and Jim Roberts interviewed for Jim Hinkle's former job as Jacobs boys basketball coach about two months ago.
But at the Gary Collins Shootout on Friday at Crystal Lake South, both men stood on opposite sides of the same court in new roles, with Hinkle looking on like a proud father.
Roberts ended up succeeding Hinkle, but Benson, who last season coached the Jacobs sophomore team, became the new head coach at Marengo.
"[Hinkle] stopped into practice the other day, because he's still around school, just to peek in," Roberts said. "When somebody like that is there watching, you just hope that he's proud of the product that he sees."
The Golden Eagles lost 12 seniors – the core of their team – after last season, but defeated a veteran Indians squad, 45-26, in the first game of pool play for each team.
Benson denied any added pressure or awkwardness with facing his former players.
"It wasn't about me or anything," he said. "The kids and I have a good relationship regardless, and it was good to see them actually."
But Marengo, with its smaller school and much smaller frontcourt, surprised the Golden Eagles with its defensive intensity. The Indians tied the score, 9-9, early in the first half, and after an 8-3 Jacobs run, a three-pointer by sophomore Zach Knobloch brought Marengo within 17-15 and reinvigorated its staunch defense.
"I saw our guys when we came in the gym and went to warm up before the game, and they didn't have bounce," Roberts said of his summer team, which included three seniors, three juniors and freshman Cameron Krutwig. "They didn't have energy, and they weren't getting the sweat going ... as a result, the game starts and that's how we play."
Junior guard Chrishawn Orange, a returning starter from last season, intervened at halftime to awaken the Jacobs offense.
"In the second half I told them, 'Let's go, turn it up, let's get this win,' " Orange said. "Coach looks at me to lead the team, so I try my best to be a vocal player out there."
As a result, Jacobs went into overdrive and used a 26-9 run, fueled by drives to the basket by Krutig and junior Kenton Mack and post-ups from senior Nick Anderson, to turn a six-point halftime lead into a motivating result for both teams.
"We're just trying to get better," Benson said. "... I always like coming back here [to the Gary Collins Shootout]. It's close, you see a lot of different teams, and especially because ... I don't know if there are any other Big Northern (Conference) teams here."
For Jacobs, which played in summer tournaments at McHenry and Loyola Academy and in the Wauconda summer league, this tournament marks the end of a gritty first summer under Roberts.
"We've been grinding pretty hard," Roberts said.