Saturday, February 28, 2009
Sports NewsMayfield's Mutterings: Honestly: Illini hit the homestretch 8-4

Buzzer-beater takes conference title from Railers

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[February 28, 2009]  WOW!! Whether you enjoyed the outcome or not of Friday night's winner-take-all showdown between Lincoln and Southeast, you certainly got your money's worth.

HardwareIn 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 within one.

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 area.

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."

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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 JV 61-31.

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

Other notes:

  • 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 percent.

  • The game was career game No. 900 for coach Neil Alexander. In those games, he is 585-315 (.650).

  • The Railers 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 began.

  • 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 3s.

  • 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 2002-2003 season.

  • 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.

  • Congratulations 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 200-yard freestyle.

[Special report by JEFF BENJAMIN]



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