Dundee-Crown thought it would be a good team, one that might finish high in the Fox Valley Conference, if not challenge for the title.
But after a Jan. 10 loss dropped the Chargers’ record to 6-10, the results indicated otherwise.
Coach Lance Huber felt his guys just needed to believe in themselves more. An 0-4 finish at the Wheeling Hardwood Classic over the Christmas break didn’t help. After that, D-C lost by one to Prairie Ridge and blew a 13-point lead to lose to McHenry.
“We talked to our guys a lot about, ‘Hey guys, we’re a good team,’ ” Huber said. “We got a big win here against Crystal Lake Central (two days after the McHenry loss), and we kept getting some close ones we were able to pull out. Confidence is a big thing. Hopefully we can keep it rolling.”
D-C (17-12) is the last FVC team standing and will face Jefferson (25-6) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a Class 4A Jacobs Sectional semifinal. The winner advances to the championship at 7 p.m. Friday to face Larkin, which won Tuesday’s semifinal against Auburn, 60-54.
After the win over Crystal Lake Central, the Chargers lost to St. Patrick but then won nine of 10 games, including their first two postseason games. They defeated No. 2 Jacobs, 45-40, in Friday’s D-C Regional title game after knocking out No. 3 St. Charles East, 57-54, in overtime Wednesday.
“In the middle of the year, we hit a wall; we slowed down in practice. We weren’t getting anything done,” 6-foot-8 forward Gabe Bergeron said. “We weren’t able to finish close games; we were letting teams get big leads, and we weren’t able to come back. As soon as we got to the second half, we knew we had to do what we’d been taught all year.”
Four of D-C’s past five victories have been by three, two, three and five points. The Chargers avenged regular-season losses of 17 and nine points against Jacobs on Friday.
“We lost to them twice, and you have that sour taste in your mouth,” said forward Josh Raby, who tossed in a game-high 14 points Friday. “We had one more shot, thankfully, and made the most of it. It’s always fun playing Jacobs. A lot of people, a fun atmosphere, it feels good to beat them, especially to win a championship.”
Playing in their first sectional since 2009 was not even on the Chargers’ radar when they struggled through their holiday tournament at Wheeling with four losses in four days.
“I talked to [former D-C and current St. Patrick coach] Mike Bailey at Christmas, and he talked about if you play bad at Christmas, you go 0-4 and you don’t have any time to come out of it,” Huber said. “I hadn’t really thought about it that way. We just kept battling and battling and were able to get it going.”
In February, D-C surrendered double-digit leads to McHenry and Central in consecutive games but held on to win both.
The Chargers learned, through their struggles, how to finish games.
“We’ve been in those situations,” Huber said of last week’s tight regional wins. “We tried to fall back to those situations to say we’ve been in some close games and this is how it’s got to be.”
Perhaps the adversity earlier in the season made a regional title even more special.
“We’ve been fighting all year,” Bergeron said. “We were able to do the little things and get it done. It’s amazing.”