Monday, February 09, 2009
Sports NewsMayfield's Mutterings: Illini progress report

Railers win 53-41 over Normal West, await pairings for state

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[February 09, 2009]  NORMAL -- "Our defense controlled the tempo." Anytime you hear that from Lincoln coach Neil Alexander, chances are the Railers will come out on the right side of the decision, and that's exactly what happened on Saturday night. In a season where the third quarter has been an issue both offensively and defensively, the Railers took control of a two-point game at halftime and came back to Lincoln with a 53-41 win over the Wildcats from Normal West.

DonutsThe third quarter saw the Railers turn up the defense, holding the Wildcats to just four points, while finding their shooting eye, a trend that carried through the entire second half.

Thanks to the defense, the Railer fans in attendance saw one of those Railers runs. Lincoln used a 15-1 run in the third quarter to turn a 26-25 deficit into a 40-27 lead at the end of the quarter.

Most of the offensive damage was turned in by the night's leading scorers, Kyle Young and Jordan Nelson. Young had eight of his game-high 14 points in the quarter as he showed no fear against the taller (6-foot-5, 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-10) and bigger inside players from the Wildcats. When Young wasn't producing on the inside, Nelson was connecting from long distance or scoring on a layup after a steal.

There was, however, a moment of concern to start the fourth quarter. Lincoln (22-3) has shown a propensity for not being able to play with a lead over the past few games. That fact had to creep back as Normal West (11-12) started the scoring with two 3-pointers to cut the lead to 40-33. A rare timeout by coach Alexander at the 6:52 mark of the fourth got the Railers back on track and on to the victory.

The Railers finished shooting 50 percent on the night (21-of-42), but it was their marksmanship in the second half (11-of-16; 69 percent) that allowed them to pull away. The defense held West to only 33 percent (6-of-18) shooting after intermission.

As usual in a Lincoln win, the turnovers played the largest role. Lincoln forced Normal West into 15 turnovers, while committing only six of their own. Because of those miscues, the Railers were able to outscore the Wildcats 18-5 in the points-off-turnovers category.

Lincoln also did a real nice job on the offensive boards with seven.

Give credit to the coaching staff as well. Normal West was led by Christian Baker (nine points) and D.T. Thornton (six points) in the first half. Most of those points came from in the paint. An adjustment in the Railers' normal defensive set focused a little more attention on the inside, and those players were held scoreless in the second half.

Normal West proved to be a pest in the first half. After a 3 from Jordan Nelson gave the Railers a 5-2 lead, West scored seven in a row. However, it was great to see senior Alex Anderson hit two in a row from 3-point range to cut the game to a 12-11 deficit at the end of the first quarter.

As previously mentioned, Lincoln was led by Kyle Young. The senior went 5-of-7 from the field, finishing with 14 points and six rebounds. Sophomore Jordan Nelson continues to improve in front of our eyes. Nelson scored 13, had four steals and chipped in with three assists. Ben Brackney was held to single-digit scoring with eight but played well inside, with six rebounds, including three on the offensive end.

Alex Anderson added four assists to his six points on the night. Nathaniel Smith played well, scoring six as well. Senior Kyle Frick continues to do the little things that don't show up in box scores but certainly catch the eyes of fans and the coaching staff. Frick was able to hit a couple field goals for four points, while Louie Schonauer had a basket during the 15-1 run in the third for his two points on the night. Wes Neece continued his strong defensive play but did not score.

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The next important dates for the Railers will be at the end of this week. On Wednesday, the coaches will make their votes to seed the teams in the 3A regionals. By Thursday, those seeds should be released (if Lincoln is not the No. 1 seed at the Bloomington Regional, there should be an investigation), and on Friday our friends at the IHSA will release the pairings and Railer fans can begin to see the road the Railers will have to take in order to make a return trip to Peoria. The teams in their regional include Bloomington, Normal U-High, Mahomet-Seymour, Rantoul and, of course, the Railers.

The Lincoln JV won their contest in overtime 65-61.

Lincoln will be in action again on Friday as they return home to take on the Cyclones from Sacred Heart-Griffin. The Railers will be trying to sweep the season series after defeating the Cyclones 60-42 on Jan. 9 in Springfield. 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 (53) -- Young 5 4-6 14, Nelson 5 0-0 13, Brackney 4 0-0 8, Smith 2 1-2 6, Anderson 2 0-0 6, Frick 2 0-0 4, Schonauer 1 0-0 2, Neece 0 0-0 0. Team 21 5-8 53.
3-point FG: Team 3 (Nelson 3, Anderson 2, Smith).

Normal West (41) -- Baker 9, Hallstein 9, Walls 8, Thornton 6, Scheuermann 3, Bell 3, Stewart 3.

End of first quarter -- Normal West 12, LCHS 11
Halftime -- LCHS 25, Normal West 23
End of third quarter -- LCHS 40, Normal West 27

[Special report by JEFF BENJAMIN]



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