the end, however, it was Southeast claiming their first-ever Central
State Eight championship, thanks to Lawrence Thomas' buzzer-beating,
off-balance jumper from near the top of the key, giving the Spartans
a 61-60 win to end the regular season.
The win improves Southeast
to 13-1 in the CS8, while the Railers finish at 12-2 in conference.
As emotional and intense as the contest was, both teams, along with
the other 175 teams in Class 3A, now look ahead to the ultimate
prize, a state championship.
Friday's game had everything you would expect in a heavyweight
fight. Lots of back-and-forth, punch-counterpunch. Other than a 12-3
run to start the second quarter, Lincoln just could not put together
much offensive momentum.
After watching Southeast score quickly to start the game, the
Railers answered with a 3 from senior Louie Schonauer. In a game
plan preferred by both, Southeast got most of their early points
inside, while the Railers relied on long range. Jordan Nelson and
Schonauer each hit another 3 for Lincoln, but it was just too fast a
pace for the Railers. At the end of the first quarter, Southeast had
already put up 23 points and held a four-point lead, 23-19. In only
three other quarters this season have the Railers given up more than
23 in a quarter. Fittingly, on Senior Night, Schonauer led the team
with 10 at the end of the first quarter.
The biggest story for Lincoln in the first eight minutes actually
took only about two minutes. Senior Kyle Young was whistled for his
second foul just 2:10 into the contest, which forced Lincoln to
bring him to the bench. Another senior, Kyle Frick, stepped in and
played well in light of Lincoln losing its leading scorer early on.
As previously mentioned, the Railers (26-4) ran off a 12-3 run to
take their largest lead of the night at 31-26. After Southeast
scored a couple of baskets to cut it to one, Jordan Nelson hit a 3
to give Lincoln a four-point advantage at the half. Both teams shot
well in the first 16 minutes, Southeast hitting on 13-of-24 for 54
percent, while the Railers were a blazing 13-of-19 from the floor
for 68 percent, including 5-of-9 from 3-point range.
The third quarter belonged to Southeast, outscoring Lincoln 17-8.
After being held to only a first-quarter basket, Lawrence Thomas
started to heat up, scoring eight in the quarter. His most
devastating points came at the end of the quarter. After Kyle Young
hit a layup to cut the Spartans' lead to 44-42, Thomas hit a
three-quarter court at the buzzer to stretch the lead back to five.
That buzzer-beater was just a prelude to his final act. Kyle Young
did score six of the eight points for Lincoln but missed two free
throws, another issue the Railers had on the evening.
The fourth quarter would have been worth the price of admission
itself. The teams went back and forth as Southeast's lead went from
five to three, back to five, down to two, and on and on.
About halfway through the quarter, coach Neil Alexander put Kyle
Frick into the contest to play the point of the Railer defense.
Almost on cue, Frick came away with a steal, got fouled and hit the
free throw to bring the Railers to 49-47 at the 3:57 mark. However,
Southeast had answer after answer for the Railers, and trading the
baskets brought the game to 57-52 with under a minute to go.
A 3 from Louie Schonauer pulled the Railers to within 57-55, but
a quick basket pushed the lead back to four at 59-55. Jordan Nelson
then took the inbounds pass and, with no one willing or able to stop
him, pulled up and hit his fourth 3 of the night to bring Lincoln to
Down by one, and after a Southeast turnover, the Railers were
looking for their first lead of the quarter and the win. After
running the clock down to under 10 seconds, Kyle Young made the
perfect pass to Nathaniel Smith cutting to the basket. Smith hit the
driving layup, giving Lincoln a 60-59 lead, and, by the roar at Roy
S. Anderson Gymnasium, probably setting off Richter scales in the
After the basket, with about six seconds left, Lawrence Thomas
took the inbounds pass, drove downcourt and, with three Railer
defenders draped all over him, hit an off-balance shot that danced
on the rim a couple of times before falling good and breaking the
hearts of the most of those in attendance.
The basket set off a celebration by the Southeast team and fans
as they captured their first outright CS8 championship, while
watching their seniors savor their first-ever win here in Lincoln.
The on-target shooting had continued for both teams as Southeast
went 12-for-19 (63 percent) in the second half to finish the game at
58 percent. The Railers cooled off, going 10-of-18 for 56 percent.
For the night, Lincoln hit 62 percent (23-of-37) of their shots,
including 8-for-16 from long range. Southeast outrebounded the
Railers 23-13. However, just like earlier in the season, free-throw
shooting caught up to the Railers again, as they went only 6-for-11
on the night.
It was a great game. The outcome was not. However, this is the
type of game that could prepare this team for a long run into March.
As coach Alexander said, "We all have the same record now, so it's
time to move on."
[to top of second column]
The Railers were led by Jordan Nelson with 15, Louie Schonauer
with 13 and Kyle Frick adding a career-high-tying 10 points. Kyle
Young was held to a season-low of seven and Ben Brackney scored six.
Wes Neece added five and Nathaniel Smith chipped in with four.
It was a sweep for Southeast as they easily handled the Lincoln
Lincoln will be in action on Tuesday night in the regional
semifinal game at Bloomington High School. Their opponent will be
either Normal U-High or Rantoul. A victory on Tuesday will put them
into the regional final against either Mahomet-Seymour or
Bloomington. The contest is scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m. and, as
always, you can catch the game on WLCN-FM 96.3 and here at
LINCOLN (60) -- Nelson 5 1-2 15, Schonauer 5 0-0 13, Frick 4 2-3
10, Young 3 1-4 7, Brackney 3 0-0 6, Neece 1 2-2 5, Smith 2 0-0 4,
Anderson 0 0-0 0. Team 23 6-11 60.
3-point FG: Team 8 (Nelson 4, Schonauer 3, Neece).
Southeast (61) -- Anderson 16, Chandler 15, Thomas 14, Crawford
8, Doss 8.
End of first quarter -- Southeast 23, LCHS 19
Halftime -- LCHS 34, Southeast 30
End of third quarter -- Southeast 47, LCHS 42
In two games
against Southeast, the Railers shot 13-of-25 (52 percent) from
the free-throw line. Against everyone else, they have shot 75
The game was
career game No. 900 for coach Neil Alexander. In those games, he
is 585-315 (.650).
finished 12-2 at home this season. All-time, Lincoln is 511-143
(.781) at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium.
All-time in CS8 play, Lincoln is still
the best ever. They are now 180-44 (.804) since the conference
The 25 field goals by Southeast
are the most the Railers have allowed in a game this season.
Kyle Young has
joined the 400-point club with the 37th season for a Railer with
400-499 points in a season. There are 18 seasons for Railers
with 500-plus points.
Alex Anderson is
tied for eighth all-time in games played with 94. Anderson is
tied with Seymour Reed and Brian Cook.
Jordan Nelson is
now tied for eighth all-time in 3-pointers made with 121. He is
tied with Jeremy Bruce. Louie Schonauer is in 16th place with 94
Jordan Nelson is
also tied for seventh all-time in 3s made in a season with 74.
Nelson has matched the performance of Cory Farmer in the
Kudos to the fans
who turned out for the game. It was one of the best atmospheres
for a game in a long time.
Best wishes to all
the seniors involved with Lincoln High School, not just those
associated with the basketball program.
also go out to Lincoln freshman Brennan Elsas, who competed
Friday at the state swimming championships. Elsas did not
qualify for the finals on Saturday, but he did finish with a
time of 54.94 in the 100-yard butterfly and 1:48.93 in the
[Special report by JEFF BENJAMIN]