ELGIN – Ben Murray looked into the eyes of his Jacobs teammates midway through Wednesday night's Class 4A sectional semifinal and made one thing clear.
He wasn't going out like this. Not with a 15-point loss. Not on a night that could bring the careers of the Golden Eagles' seniors to an end.
All season, Jacobs had made a habit of fighting from behind. Now, Murray was asking for one more battle.
With 6 1/2 minutes remaining, the Golden Eagles had trimmed the double-digit deficit to one. But unlike other times this season when Jacobs had made a comeback, the Storm was the one that would finish the strongest.
South Elgin, playing without head coach Matt Petersen who was suspended by the IHSA for the remainder of the season, resolved to advance to Friday's sectional championship game, finishing off Jacobs 71-66.
"I definitely felt like this was one last chance that we could do it again – we had done it all year," said Murray, who finished with 10 points. "I don't know. In our locker room, it never goes away. We just never say die. We never feel like we're out of it."
Jacobs (18-15) trailed by nine entering the fourth quarter after South Elgin's Darius Wells beat the third-quarter buzzer by hitting one of South Elgin's 13 3-point field goals. Asked to respond to what could have been a major momentum shift, the Eagles scored the game's next eight points to get within 53-52 with 6:34 remaining.
In that instant, first-year coach Jimmy Roberts sensed his team had one more run left.
"That's why you coach, that's why you play, that's why you work as hard as you do – just to get in those moments," Roberts said. "Those moments when you're down and you come back and they've got to call timeout. It's just a lot of fun."
But South Elgin (18-14) was determined not to allow Jacobs to advance. The Storm learned it would have to play without Petersen, who was punished after the school self-reported that it had played too many games during the regular season.
Assistant Steve Szpejnowski called timeout and told his players to hold their composure. The Storm – led by Wells' 26 points – did just that, pushing its lead back to double digits before Jacobs eventually got the lead back to five on a last-second Cameron Krutwig basket.
Krutwig joined his fellow four starters by scoring in double figures paced by Cory Boeckh, who led Jacobs with 15 points. Kenton Mack finished with 12.
But it wasn't enough.
Afterward, Murray said he couldn't put the difficulty of the moment into words. Roberts, holding back tears, did.
"I thought we had a great opportunity to win," he said. "But they did enough. But I'm proud of those guys. I'm just sad that we don't get to do it again."