Railer roundball season starts
Jeff Benjamin's Railer notes
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Well, tonight is the night the curtain goes up on the 96th
season of basketball at Lincoln Community High School. With four
district titles, 49 regional championships, 12 sectional titles,
eight Elite Eight appearances, one fourth-place finish (1980) and
two McDonald's All-Americans in their past, tradition is an
important part of Railer basketball. However, the annual question is
the same: "Will this be the year the BIG trophy finds a home on
Primm Road?" Unfortunately, that answer will be not revealed until
mid-March in Peoria. However, I do know that the next few months
will certainly be exciting, and thoughts of what could happen are
already starting to make the rounds.
Over the past seven years of covering Railer basketball for 96.3 FM
(where you can hear tonight's game at 7:30), our broadcasts end with
an interview featuring coach Neil Alexander. Through all the
questions, answers and discussions, there are two things the coach
stresses that ring a bit louder than the others: If you don't play
defense, you won't win; and you can only worry about one game at a
time. With the latter in mind, we should set our season goals aside
and concentrate on game one: tonight's tilt against East St. Louis.
As listeners know, and readers will come to learn, I like
statistics. With that in mind, here are a few things to think about
as we head into night one of this year's Thanksgiving tournament.
(By the way, all the statistics are based on the tournament in its
current format, starting in 1999 through last year.)
Champaign Centennial vs. Danville (at Centennial) -- Danville is 2-1
against the Chargers, but Centennial easily got their first win last
year with an 86-55 victory. The 86 points and 31-point victory mark
the most for Centennial in those two areas for the tourney.
O'Fallon vs. Peoria Manual -- If their first three matchups are any
indication, tonight's game will be close and probably go into
overtime. O'Fallon has a 2-1 series advantage, and of those three
games, all have been decided by seven points or less, and two have
gone into overtime. In fact, Manual has been involved in the last
three overtime games played in the tournament. Last year, the
Panthers topped Manual 72-69. Even though they have been involved
for only three years, O'Fallon knows how to start the week. The
Panthers are 3-0 in their Monday matchups.
Lincoln vs. East St. Louis -- Lincoln's 53-47 victory over the
Flyers was their only notch in the tournament win column last
year. Ben Brackney led the way with 17, and Jordan Nelson added 10
in his Railer debut. The Railers hold a 4-2 advantage over East St.
Louis and usually do well on Mondays (6-2). As previously mentioned,
defense is the key. Since 1999, the Railers are 22-1 when they hold
their tournament opponents to under 50 points. Once to 50, Lincoln's
mark is 11-11.
Here are a few other nuggets:
Will tonight's games be close? There's a 50-50 chance. Literally. Of
the 133 games played, 51 percent of them have been decided by single
digits. Forty percent of the contests have had margins of seven or
Speaking of margins, the most common margin has been seven. One
thing is for sure -- well, almost for sure. We probably won't see a
margin of 24. None of the 133 games played have ended with that as
Of the six teams involved, five have won at least one tournament
title. The only one not to? Lincoln's opponent on Saturday night,
[to top of second column]
Don't let anyone tell you that this tournament is not tough. Over
the last six seasons, at least one of the participants each year has
advanced to a state tournament appearance. In fact, during the last
two years, there have been two teams from the pool to advance deep
into the madness that is March.
If it's a low-scoring game, count on the Railers to be there. Of the
10 lowest scoring games by a single team, you can credit Lincoln
with spinning the defensive web in seven of them. Do you know the
lowest scoring game by a single team? Think about it. I'll get back
to that a little later.
Lincoln's next win at home will be the 500th at Roy S. Anderson
Well, I hope that gives you a feel for what you can find when you
check out our broadcasts and simulcasts on 96.3 WLCN and
game should be a good start for the Railers, a team that could be
one of the deepest in years. Deep enough to go deep into the
tournament? Not so fast. Remember, one game at a time. Hope you get
a chance to listen tonight, and look for a quick recap on Tuesday.
Nothing like five games over six days, with a little turkey thrown
in, to get the season started right.
[By JEFF BENJAMIN]
Editor's note: You can look for spectacular Railer basketball
reviews by Jeff Benjamin under SPORTS this year.