Heart rates and blood pressures were going up
and down like the stock market, especially in the final seven and a
half seconds of Lincoln's dramatic 53-50 win over Belleville Althoff.
With the game tied at 50, Lincoln junior guard Jordan Nelson stepped
to the line and hit one of two free throws to give the Railers a one-point advantage. Althoff came down, missing a shot to take the lead,
but grabbing the rebound. However, Nelson reached in, forcing a held
ball, with alternating possession giving the ball to Lincoln with
less than eight seconds to go. All the Railers had to do was get the
ball in bounds, probably make some free throws, play some good
defense and get the victory. Things were looking good.
Unfortunately, a miscommunication on the
inbounds pass gave the ball back to the Crusaders with no time
running off the clock. Junior Nathaniel Smith, throwing in while
standing in front of the Althoff bench, threw back toward the
Althoff basket, toward Nelson. The pass was over and out of
the reach of Nelson, and the Crusaders were still alive, while the
gasp inside the gym from the Railer Nation was that feeling of
"uh-oh, here we go again." Lincoln coach Neil Alexander did not see
the fault in Smith's pass. "We stopped picking. We just ran to our
spots," Alexander said.
Crusader coach Greg Leib called timeout to set
up what he hoped would be the culmination of a comeback from down as
much as 11. Still with seven and a half seconds on the clock, Althoff threw the ball into the lane, intending
it for the 6-foot-9 John
Harms. Harms, while backing into the lane, was unable to get the
ball on a pass that would have been better delivered on a line to
the wide-open Carson Sonnenberg.
With the ball up for grabs, senior Ben Brackney
played off Harms enough to disrupt Sonnenberg's attempt at the ball.
Brackney corralled the ball on the baseline and had his legs taken
out from under him as Sonnenberg, who fouled out on the play, tried
to make the steal back for Althoff.
Brackney stepped to the line, needing to
show the composure that allowed him and Nelson to score the
Railers' final 17 points. Brackney, who finished the game with 18
points, hit both free throws to extend the Lincoln lead to 53-50.
Over? Not yet.
Althoff's David Franklin, who had hurt the
Railers earlier in the game with his outside shooting, got a clean
look from about 25 feet, coming up short, and finally, the Railers
and their fans could breathe a huge sigh of relief. Not bad for only
seven and a half seconds.
Althoff (2-1) scored the game's first basket,
but the Railers ran off 10 in a row including 3s from Cameron
Turner and Nelson. The game stayed close throughout, with
Lincoln (3-0) holding a 24-22 lead at the half.
Althoff's star Sonnenberg was held to
only six points in the contest, just four in the first two quarters.
The final big push by the Railers, a 12-3 run to start the third
quarter, put the hosts up by 11.
By the end of the third quarter, Lincoln was up
by 10, but there was still a feeling of uneasiness, knowing this Althoff team was good and they were not going to just go away.
Those fears were realized when the Crusaders
scored a quick five points to begin the final quarter, cutting the
lead to 42-37. Slowly, Althoff's physical strength, along with
possible fatigue by the Railers, began to allow Althoff to creep
back into the game. After two free throws from Nelson put Lincoln up 50-47, a Crusader
3 tied the game at 50 and set
the stage for the night's dramatics.
Lincoln was led in scoring again by Nelson. The junior finished with 24 points, including five
3s. Brackney had 18 points and, along with Brant Coyne, led the team
in rebounds with seven. Turner, playing his best game of the
season so far, finished with five. Despite making the ill-advised
inbounds pass at the end, Smith played a solid game,
chipping in with four points and five assists. The other points of
the night came from a Coyne drive to the basket.
Neither team shot the ball well (Lincoln 38
percent, Althoff 35). Good defense was played, but not many turnovers
were forced. Lincoln shot just well enough from the free-throw line
(12-18) to pull this one out. This contest, from opening tip to that
final miss from Althoff, had all the makings of a game you might see
in March. Two evenly matched teams, battling it out, and on this
night the red-clad Railers came out on top.
[to top of second column]
Other scores from Friday night saw Danville
defeat Rochester 88-40, and Champaign Centennial, behind Rayvonte
Rice's 41 points, escaped Cahokia 70-58.
The standings through Friday night are as
Lincoln 3-0, Champaign Centennial 3-0, Belleville Althoff 2-1,
Danville 1-2, Cahokia 0-3, Rochester 0-3.
The Railers continue on the final day of the
Eaton Electrical Round Robin Tournament with two on Saturday: an
11:30 matchup with Rochester and, what could be for the tournament
title, an 8:30 battle with defending state champion Champaign
Of course, Centennial's day starts with a
contest against Althoff at 1 p.m. You are reminded to look for the
wrap-up of the weekend action on Monday here on
Nelson 7-14, 5-7 24, Brackney 6-17 6-8 18,
Turner 2-4 0-0 5, Smith 1-4 1-2 4, Coyne 1-4 0-1 2, Bowlby 0-1 0-0
0, Kirby 0-1 0-0 0. Team 17-45 12-18 53.
3-point field goals 7-22
(Nelson 5-10, Smith 1-2, Turner 1-3, Brackney 0-5, Coyne 0-1, Kirby
Rebounds 25 (Brackney, Coyne 7), assists 9 (Smith 5), steals
6 (Nelson, Brackney 2), turnovers 7.
Belleville Althoff (50)
Franklin 14, Harms 14, Sonnenberg 6, Fink 5,
Griffin 5, Hanger 3, Mumphard 3. Team 18-51 9-11 50.
Rebounds 41, assists 10, steals 2, turnovers 12.
End of first quarter: Lincoln 15, Althoff 9
Halftime: Lincoln 24, Althoff 22
End of third quarter: Lincoln 42, Althoff 32
Jordan Nelson continues to climb the all-time
list of 3s made. It seems Nelson jumps a spot or two each
game. After Friday night's contest, he is tied with Cory Farmer for
fifth all-time with 142. Next up, current assistant coach John Harmsen. He stands in
fourth with 185 during his Railer career.
They will certainly sleep well on Sunday.
The trio of Jordan Nelson, Ben Brackney, and Nathaniel Smith have
combined to play over 283 minutes out of a possible 288. They all
played the full 32 minutes against Danville and Althoff.
The win was
No. 591 for coach Neil
Alexander (591-317), No. 432 at Lincoln (432-142).
Love that home cooking. While playing at Roy
S. Anderson, the Railers are now 514-143.
The oddity of the night occurred in the
Centennial-Cahokia game when the ball became lodged on top of the
backboard support. After it was retrieved, the next possession on
the other end of the court -- you guessed it -- the same thing
happened. A Centennial player tried using another ball to knock it
free but missed on three attempts. He then gave it to Rayvonte
Rice, who easily freed it on his first attempt. I suppose when you
score 41 points, you don't miss much, no matter what it is.
When you're at the game, please remember to
visit the concession stands. The band boosters do a great job with
it every game night.
[Special report by JEFF