The tournament title gives Lincoln its first holiday tourney
title since 1997, when Brian Cook led his squad to victory at the
King Cotton Classic in Arkansas.
Lincoln (11-1) defeated Belleville Althoff 77-67 in the first of the
semifinals, behind the 3-point marksmanship the Railers
have been known for.
By hitting 14 of 25 from behind the arc, Lincoln tied the
tournament all-time record for 3s made in a game and set the
tone where most of the offense for the game would come from.
Career highs from Nelson and Smith helped lead
Lincoln to their second victory of the season over Althoff (8-4).
Along with Brackney's 23 points, the trio combined for 70
points in the first game. Nelson's 31 points came on 9-of-14
shooting, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range as well as being
perfect on his eight attempts from the free-throw line.
Brackney added a team-high seven rebounds to his 23 points, while
Nathaniel Smith added a career-best 16 points and four assists.
Brant Coyne (4 points) and Austin Kirby (3) were the only other
Railers to score in game one.
The game played out like much of the crowd thought it would. The
Crusaders held a one-point lead at the end of the first quarter,
Althoff had their last lead of the game early in the second
quarter at 15-14. After a Coyne basket put Lincoln up 21-17,
Lincoln's final 15 points of the quarter came via the long ball, two
from Brackney and three in a row from Nelson. As the game
reached intermission, Lincoln enjoyed a 36-25 advantage, thanks in
large part to 62 percent shooting from field, including 57 percent
from 3-point range.
Althoff had a run in them to start the third quarter, and even with
the continuation of the hot shooting from Nelson, Brackney and
Smith, the Crusaders were able to connect on a 3 at the end of
the quarter to eliminate the 11-point halftime deficit and tie
the game at 52.
The fourth quarter started with the teams trading baskets as the
game was tied at 55 and 57. A Brackney 3 gave Lincoln the
game for good at 60-57. After an Althoff basket brought them to
within one, the Railers closed out the game on a 17-8 run to provide
the winning margin of 10.
Even though the Railers had won to move into the championship game,
they did not escape without some bumps and bruises. Senior Reuben
Bowlby injured his right foot in the second quarter and was
unavailable for the rest of the day. Kirby injured his lower
back but was able to return to action in the contest, and Brackney got tied up in a rugby-type scrum with Althoff's Joe Harms,
resulting in the senior chipping one tooth and loosening another.
Giving up 67 points is much more than the Railers would like, but
shooting 60 percent (25-42) for the game and 56 percent (14-25) from
3-point range can cover up a lot of defensive issues. Lincoln
continues to get back on track from the free-throw line, missing
only one of their 14 attempts on the day.
The championship game late Wednesday night saw the Railers trying to
defeat their own demons, ones that saw them in the final four of the
tournament three of the previous four years without a title. The game
also saw Lincoln taking on the host school as Collinsville was trying to
win their own holiday tournament for the first time in over a
The Railers knew going in that Collinsville's Rob Fernandez would be
hard to handle inside, especially without the injured Bowlby,
who was unavailable for the game. Fernandez's inside strength has,
in the past, proven to be the type of player that has bothered the
After Lincoln jumped out to an early 8-2 lead, the Kahoks (8-5) ran
off 10 in a row to lead 12-8 after one quarter. Once again, it was
Nelson, a junior, who took over, scoring the next nine Lincoln
points to put the Railers ahead 17-16. The contest went back and
forth for the rest of the quarter, and a Collinsville basket as the
halftime horn sounded left the Railers with only a two-point cushion
The game continued its pendulum-type action until
Collinsville took their last lead of the game at 33-32. Smith put the Railers back on top at 34-33.
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The game's pivotal play occurred at the end of the third quarter
as Lincoln failed at scoring near the end of the period.
Collinsville grabbed the rebound and heaved the ball downcourt.
Nelson and Collinsville' Daryn Foster got tangled up going
for the ball, and Foster was whistled for a foul as the third-quarter
horn sounded. After a brief discussion, Nelson went to the line, hit
both free throws and Lincoln led by three, 36-33.
The fourth quarter started with Lincoln scoring on the opening
possession to stretch the lead to five at 38-33. The Kahoks tried to
stay close, but without production from their inside presence Fernandez, Collinsville did not have enough to pull off the upset.
Fernandez had 24 points in the contest, but was held to just two in
the fourth quarter.
The game again belonged to the big three of Jordan Nelson (29), Ben
Brackney (15) and Nathaniel Smith (11). The trio scored all but one
of Lincoln's points in the contest. For the day, the three scored
125 of the team's 133 points. Nelson, who scored 98 points
over the four games, was deservedly named the tournament's MVP. Brackney was also named to the all-tournament team, but Smith was inexplicably left off the team. However, Smith's efforts
did not go unnoticed. Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said, "Nathaniel
is now playing the way we want him to. He's done a very nice job
over the past four games."
With the trophy in hand, the Railers now turn to conference play,
which begins on Tuesday night as Lincoln welcomes in Springfield
Southeast. I think we all remember what happened last year when the
Spartans left Roy S. Anderson with a win on an improbable shot by
Lawrence Thomas. Not only will getting that taste out of their
mouths be on tap, a victory by the Railers would give coach Neil
Alexander his 600th career win. As always, you can read about the Railers
here at www.lincolndailynews.com.
Nelson 9-14 8-8 31, Brackney 7-12 5-6 23, Smith 6-9 0-0 16, Coyne
2-3 0-0 4, Kirby 1-3 0-0 3, Turner 0-1 0-0 0, Bowlby 0-0 0-0 0. Team
25-42 13-14 77. 3-point field goals 14-25 (Nelson 5-9, Brackney 4-6,
Smith 4-6, Kirby 1-3, Turner 0-1). Rebounds 19 (Brackney 7), assists
14 (Nelson 5), steals 9 (Nelson, Smith 3), turnovers 11.
Sonnenberg 15, Franklin 12, Mumphard 11, Griffin 9, Hanger 8, Harms
8, Fink 4. Team 27-51 4-5 67. 3-point field goals 9-25, rebounds 23,
assists 21, steals 5, turnovers 15.
Nelson 7-11 12-14 29, Brackney 6-14 1-2 15, Smith 4-5 2-2 11, Kirby
0-1 1-2 1, Coyne 0-2 0-0 0, Cosby 0-1 0-0 0, Turner 0-1 0-0 0. Team
17-35 16-20 56. 3-point field goals 6-15 (Nelson 3-4, Brackney 2-6,
Smith 1-1, Kirby 0-1, Coyne 0-1, Cosby 0-1, Turner 0-1). Rebounds 16
(Brackney 5), assists 9 (3 tied with 2), steals 10 (Smith 4),
Fernandez 24, Foster 15, Ash 6, Lewis 3. Team 19-39 8-13 48. 3-point
field goals 2-12, rebounds 25, assists 9, steals 2, turnovers 15.
Nelson 98, Brackney 73, Smith 48, Coyne 26, Bowlby 7, Kirby 6.
Field goal shooting: 85 of 165 (52 percent)
3-point shooting: 36 of 86 (42 percent)
Free-throw shooting: 52 of 63 (83 percent)
[Special report by JEFF BENJAMIN]