ALGONQUIN – Cameron Krutwig was in position even before his Jacobs teammate Chrishawn Orange put up the shot.
None of Crystal Lake South’s basketball players were paying Krutwig, the Golden Eagles’ 6-foot-5 freshman forward, too much attention. South was poised to upset the Eagles again, clinging to a two-point lead with 6.9 seconds left. So Krutwig’s spot underneath the hoop wasn’t the Gators’ top assignment. Little else mattered but sending help defense to swarm Orange.
Krutwig knew it. When Orange’s shot nicked the rim and spun out, Krutwig grabbed the offensive board for the putback. The fact that he made the shot, finishing a play that’s drilled into Jacobs’ forwards’ psyche for these kinds of clutch situations, underscored the rookie’s game-time acumen.
That Krutwig drew a foul and completed a 3-point play to secure a 50-49 Eagles victory against the Gators made him the evening’s hero.
“We trust Chris with the ball, and when he drives at the end, I’m just there for cleanup,” Krutwig said. “Good things happen when you crash the offensive glass.”
Jacobs coach Jimmy Roberts trusted that would happen should Orange miss the shot. Despite having four timeouts, Roberts tested the Eagles’ mettled and let them bring the ball down the court undisturbed with 22 seconds remaining and a two-point deficit, 49-47.
The scene unfolded the way the Eagles always scripted it. Orange drove to the right, drawing all the Gators’ defenders, and launched an off-kilter shot.
He knew Krutwig could do the rest.
“My bigs will get the rebound and put it back in,” said Orange, who led all scorers with 22 points. “ … We all knew what we were doing. Everything was in place. We just had to make the plays to win.”
The Eagles (12-12 overall, 6-3 FVC Valley) had chances to put the Gators (14-9, 3-7) away earlier. Jacobs went 4-for-6 from 3-point range in the third quarter while holding the Gators to just three points. The Eagles led 45-36 with 3:29 left in the fourth quarter and, by then, South was out of timeouts.
South chipped away and pulled within two, 45-43, on forward Kyle Bartusch’s three-point play with 1:52 remaining. A pair of Orange free throws made it 47-43 Jacobs, but South guard Caleb Johnson hit a runner and Jacobs turned the ball over when it couldn’t inbound the ball within five seconds.
Johnson hit a 3 in the right corner to put the Gators ahead 48-47 with 1:05 left to play, and a free throw from guard Steve Thomas made it 49-47 with 28.7 seconds remaining.
It all pointed to South sealing its second come-from-behind victory of the year against the Eagles. All but Krutwig, anyway.
“We were super resilient,” South coach Matt LePage said. “I thought we did enough to win the game, but obviously (Krutwig) thought differently. He made a heck of a play.”