the second Friday night in a row in our capital city, the Railers
could not comfortably handle fourth-quarter prosperity. Playing with
a slim lead, it seemed every time Lincoln could force the Senators
into a turnover or bad shot, coach Neil Alexander's squad would give
it right back with a turnover or forced shot of their own.
In the closing minutes, Lincoln (21-3, 10-1) turned the ball over
six times and could not stretch the lead to more than five. However,
unlike the final Friday in January, the Railers stepped to the line
and converted free throws. On a night when each and every one of
them was needed, Lincoln hit 20 of 24 from the line, including 12 of
13 in the second half.
It will be the final play of the game that will be talked about,
a play that conceivably should have never happened. Leading 41-38,
sophomore Nathaniel Smith stepped to the line and hit both free
throws to give the Railers a five-point advantage. Springfield
scored their final points, cutting the lead to 43-40, with about
five seconds remaining on the clock, a clock that for just a moment
was stopped and started again.
As Lincoln tried to inbound the basketball, a bad pass gave the
ball back to the Senators with 1.8 seconds remaining. It appeared
Lincoln did not need to inbound the ball because the clock would
have expired before the five-second violation was called. However,
it was, but now the concern was how much time should be on the
clock, as the Senators certainly got a break from the clock
As the officials huddled, my broadcast partner and former
official, Tom Larey, said that even though they may know less time
should be on the clock, if they don't know 100 percent for sure how
much, then they can't make a change. One of the officials had the
unenviable task of relaying the message to a frustrated coach
Alexander. It was obvious he heard the explanation, but he certainly
did not like it.
Once it was all settled, Lincoln's defense was set up to allow
anyone and everyone in the lane, because the two points would change
the margin, but not the outcome. However, as the scramble ensued to
get the ball in, Tyler Klunick was able to find an opening in the
left corner and fire off a 3. The junior had a clean look, but the
ball bounced high off the back of the rim as time expired and
Lincoln breathed a sigh of relief.
So, the Railers get the win and all is well, right? Not really.
In our postgame interview, coach Alexander conveyed his frustration
with a team that continues to teeter in the closing minutes of tight
games. "We did not deserve to win that basketball game," Alexander
said. "If nothing else, we should still be playing." Alexander
confirmed the final play defense called for the Railers to allow
"all five guys in the lane if they wanted; just don't give up the
The contest did not start like the Railers wanted, allowing
Springfield (12-11, 4-6) to jump out to an early 7-0 lead. A jumper
from Ben Brackney broke the scoring drought for the Railers,
beginning an 8-0 run that put Lincoln up for the first time. Even
though the Railers took a one-point advantage into halftime (they
also had a one-point lead in the earlier game at Lincoln), it
certainly was not because of their shooting from the field. Lincoln
was held to only one field goal in the second quarter, but a 7-for-8
performance from the line gave the Railers an 18-17 lead at
After Springfield scored the first three points in the third, the
Railers finally found a way to dial long range, as sophomore Jordan
Nelson hit two in a row from beyond the arc and senior Louie
Schonauer's 3 gave Lincoln the lead for good at 27-24.
The biggest play of the game may have occurred at the 3:17 mark
of the fourth quarter, when Ben Brackney drove to the basket, hit
the layup and was fouled by Springfield's Ben Mathis, his fifth.
Brackney's free throw completed the three-point play to give Lincoln
a 36-30 lead. It also took away one of Springfield's key offensive
weapons, as Mathis, along with 6-foot-3, 250-pound Kendall Murdock,
proved to be a formidable duo down low -- one the Railers had
difficulty stopping. The absence of Mathis allowed the Railer
defense to key on Murdock inside and give a little more help to the
Lincoln was led in scoring, for the second game in a row, by Ben
Brackney. Brackney finished with 12 points, six in each half. Jordan
Nelson joined Brackney in double figures with 10, while Louis
Schonauer chipped in with nine. The Railers' leading scorer, Kyle
Young, was held to seven points, and Nathaniel Smith hit all four of
his free throws. Kyle Frick closed out the scoring column hitting
one free throw. Wes Neece and Alex Anderson played but did not
[to top of second column]
The game was not one for the faint of heart, and it certainly
must have been an interesting locker room after the game. The
contest goes in the win column, but the looks on the faces getting
ready to board the bus back to Lincoln gave the appearance of a
loss. Had this been a game in early December, maybe some of the
miscues could be categorized as fixable.
However, the end of the regular season is three weeks away, and
it's time for the team to be playing at, or near, its best. The
search for the full 32-minute game from this team seems to be as
daunting as the search for Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. Let's
hope this search proves more productive than those.
The Lincoln JV fell short in the opener, dropping a 49-45
decision to Springfield.
Lincoln will be in action again on Saturday as they travel north
to Normal to take on the Wildcats from Normal West. The contest is
scheduled to tip around 7:30 p.m. and, as always, you can catch the
game on WLCN-FM 96.3 and here at
LINCOLN (43) -- Brackney 3 6-7 12, Nelson 3 2-2 10, Schonauer 2
4-4 9, Young 2 3-5 7, Smith 0 4-4 4, Frick 0 1-2 1, Neece 0 0-0 0,
Anderson 0 0-0 0. Team 10 20-24 43.
3-point FG: team 3 (Nelson 2, Schonauer).
Springfield (40) -- Hale 14, Mathis 8, Gilchrese 6, Murdock 5,
Wilkerson 4, Burnett 3.
End of first quarter -- Springfield 10, LCHS 9
Halftime -- LCHS 18, Springfield 17
End of third quarter -- LCHS 31, Springfield 26
The 10 field goals
by the Railers matches a season low (the other was Jan. 6
against, yep, Springfield).
The Railers did
set a season low by hitting only three 3-pointers.
Jordan Nelson has
now moved into 11th place on the all-time list of 3-pointers
made. Nelson has 102 and is only four behind Adam Osborn for
This is the ninth
time the Railers have held an opponent to 40 points or less.
The magic number
may be 56. In games in which the Railers have held their
opponents to 56 points or less, they are 20-0. In games at 57 or
more, Lincoln is 1-3.
Kudos to the fans who traveled to the
contest, both from Lincoln and Springfield. The atmosphere was
what a high school game should be, not like last Friday when the
"expected sellout" never materialized.
[Special report by JEFF BENJAMIN]