FREEPORT – Basketball is a game of runs, and the Sauk Valley men’s basketball team found itself on the wrong side of too many of them Saturday night against Kankakee.
The Cavaliers pieced together one major surge late in the first half, and pulled away late for a 97-83 victory against the Skyhawks in a Region IV Tournament semifinal. Kankakee (14-18) will now take on the host school, Highland (25-7), for the region title tonight.
Sauk Valley (17-15) got off to a good start, and led 31-22 after Riley Mehrens drained a 3-pointer with 7 minutes to go in the first half. But over the next 4 minutes, 46 seconds, the Cavaliers went on a 19-0 run that was capped by two free throws from star sophomore forward Christian Jacob.
“We couldn’t score for a stretch there,” SVCC coach AJ Sharp said, “and it really hurt our defense, because then we let them run. In transition, they’re really good. If we could go back, yeah, we’d want to stop that run a little better.”
Down 46-38 at halftime, the Skyhawks put together some surges of their own, but were unable to retake the lead. Trevon Adams hit a 3 with 12 minutes to go to bring Sauk Valley to within 66-65, but the Cavaliers responded with two quick buckets from Daizon Scott and Curtis Dilworth to go back up by five points.
Sauk’s Anthony Martinez scored at the 7:45 mark to bring his team within 71-70.
But Scott responded with a high-arching dagger of a 3, then a short jumper, and Jacob dropped in a bucket to up the margin back up to eight points at 78-70.
The closest the Skyhawks got down the stretch was five, and the Cavaliers hit 8 of 10 free throws late to pull away.
SVCC sophomore forward Montel Brown noted his club never really recovered from the big first-half run by Kankakee.
“It was a huge difference in the game, because we were playing catch-up the whole game,” Brown said. “It’s a dogfight to get back to where you were, and we ran out of energy at the end when it mattered most.”
Trevor Otten hit 7 of 15 shots from long distance and led Sauk Valley with 21 points, while Brown and Adams finished with 19 apiece. Brown collected 15 rebounds, seven of which were on the offensive end, while Adams dished 11 assists.
Martinez chipped in 16 points for the Skyhawks.
Gerald Duckworth paced a balanced attack for Kankakee with 20 points. Scott was next with 19, Jerome Bynam had 16, Jacob had 15, and Theo Owens added 13.
The Cavaliers’ attack revolved around the inside prowess of the 6-foot-8 Jacob, a force who entered the game averaging 19.6 points and 12.6 rebounds. He latched onto 17 rebounds against SVCC, and added six blocks, three assists and a steal.
Kankakee coach Chris Gardner was pleased Jacob had plenty of help.
“We stayed patient,” Gardner said. “I’m really proud of Christian Jacob for staying patient, because everybody got a taste of it tonight. Once we secured rebounds the second half and slowed it down, we rode the thing all the way home, and we’re playing [tonight].”
Region IV Tournament semifinal
Kankakee 97, Sauk Valley 83
Star of the game: Christian Jacob, Kankakee, 15 points, 17 rebounds, 6 blocks
Key performers: Montel Brown, Sauk, 19 points, 15 rebounds; Trevon Adams, Sauk, 19 points, 11 assists; Gerald Duckworth, Kankakee, 20 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists
Up next: Region IV championship game, Kankakee (14-18) vs. Highland (25-7), 7:30 p.m. today