During halftime of Saturday night's championship game of the
Eaton Electrical Round Robin Tournament, the LCHS pom squad took to
the floor. One of the songs included in their performance piece was
"There's Going to Be a Heartache Tonight." I leaned over to my
broadcast partner, Tom Larey, and noted that I hoped the song
didn't prove prophetic. Well, it did.
Top-ranked Champaign Centennial proved their lofty preseason
ranking with a 46-37 win over No. 2 Lincoln to run their Thanksgiving
tournament winning streak to 12 and capture their second straight
crown at Lincoln.
What was Lincoln's biggest obstacle? Was it Centennial's size,
the fatigue of five games over six days, including three in 24 hours,
or a myriad of other possibilities that left the Railers at 4-1 to
begin the season?
Overall, it was a combination of a lot of things, but for now,
the main reason is that Centennial has Lincoln's number and is the
better team. Does that mean this version of the Chargers is
No, not at all. However, the Railers used only
six players on Saturday night and there was just too much Rayvonte
Rice for Centennial.
As Lincoln coach Neil Alexander put it: "Well, they can
have this one. We'll take the one in March," a reference to a
possible matchup for both teams on the way to Peoria and state
During the past few years, Railer Nation has grown accustomed to the
runs that the Railers will go on. Defense into offense, quick
strikes that either put teams down or put them away. Well, the Chargers
returned the favor as an early first-quarter run and late fourth-quarter
run combined for a 20-0 advantage that Lincoln could not come
After an early 3 from Rayvonte Rice, Brant Coyne's 3 from
the corner tied it. From there, the first quarter belonged to
Centennial. Rice and Jeff Johnson combined for 14 points as they
jumped out to an early 19-8 advantage. Lincoln was held to Coyne's
3, with the other five coming from senior Ben Brackney. It was
not a case of Centennial shutting the Railers down. It was more of
Lincoln taking shots, sometimes not good ones, and suffering the
consequences of the quick looks at the basket.
Lincoln made their one big run during the second quarter, scoring
seven in a row to draw within 23-19. The defense played better,
holding Centennial to only six points. Part of that was the decision
by Centennial coach Tim Lavin to spread the court and hold the ball, willing to
wait 50 to 60 seconds for open looks by Rayvonte Rice.
On this night, though, it was the Lincoln offense that let them
down. As in games from earlier in the week, the Railers were
settling for the first look, not the best look. Sometimes, the quick
attempts at 3s resulted in easy run-out baskets for the
At this point in the season, Lincoln's main offensive options
rest with Brackney, Jordan Nelson and Nathaniel Smith. That
trio had only 14 points at the half, with Brackney scoring 12. Nelson
was held to a single layup, while Smith was shut out. Both Nelson and
Smith had shots that were in and out, rolled off the rim, even missed
free throw attempts. Aside from those three, Coyne was the
only other Railer in the book, with five, and Lincoln trailed 25-19.
In the third quarter, only 11 points were scored (Lincoln six,
Centennial five). Lincoln's only field goals were 3s, one each
from Smith and Brackney. The capacity crowd at Roy S. Anderson kept
waiting for that one moment to erupt, but it never came.
Starting the fourth, Centennial scored the first basket to extend
the lead to 32-25. With their ability to hold the ball and run
the clock, a lead any bigger could prove impossible for the Railers to
come back. The Railers mounted their last gasp with a Coyne
basket, followed by a turnover and bucket from Nelson that
brought the Railers to within three at 32-29. A free throw from Rice pushed the lead back to four, and when Nelson
scored again, Lincoln was as close as they had been in quite some
time at 33-31.
Unfortunately, it was as close as they would get
for the night. Centennial, and their ability to explode offensively,
blitzed the Railers with 11 straight points and the game was
Nelson, who struggled from 3-point range all night,
finally connected in the final minute for two from long range, but
it was not enough as Centennial won the night and proved why they,
at this point, are the No. 1 team in the state.
Sometimes the stats can muddy the picture of what happened in a
game. Not this one. Centennial shot 56 percent for the game, while
the Railers connected on only 36 percent, including 7 of 24 from
The Chargers owned the rebounding margin 30-13 and seemed in
control the entire night. The Railers were led in scoring by Brackney with 15 points. Nelson finished with 12,
including 10 in the
fourth quarter. Coyne played well, scoring seven points, and
Smith added three.
[to top of second column]
As for the game earlier in the day, it took the Railers awhile to
shake Rochester, but a 20-6 run to end the first half put the game
out of reach as Lincoln defeated their future conference mates
The biggest goal of the early game was to get those players who
had been on the court the entire week some rest. Nelson, Brackney and Smith all played less than 20 minutes, far
different from the 32 minutes they had been playing.
he played mostly just the first half, Nelson led with 19 points, all
in the first half. Brackney added 15 points and Smith was in double figures with 11. Hayden Cosby played a
great game, especially on the defensive end, and contributed seven
points, seven assists and four steals. Cameron Turner and Brandon
Miller each hit two from long range to score six points each.
Steven Green added four off the bench, while Reuben Bowlby added one.
The Railers finally get a chance to rest, as their next game will be
Friday night at home against Jacksonville to open the conference season. As always, check in with Lincoln Daily News for the
latest on the Railers and for a recap on Saturday.
Brackney 5-16, 2-2 15, Nelson 5-12 0-1 12, Coyne 3-5 0-0 7, Smith
1-4 0-2 3, Kirby 0-1 0-0 0, Turner 0-1 0-0 0. Team 14-39 2-5 37.
3-point field goals 7-24 (Brackney 3-9, Nelson 2-9, Smith 1-2, Coyne
1-3, Turner 0-1).
Rebounds 13 (Brackney 4), assists 9 (4 tied with
2), steals 5 (Nelson 2), turnovers 1.
Rice 27, Johnson 8, O'Neil 5, Piper 4, Mihm 2. Team 19-34 3-4 46.
3-point field goals 5-11.
Rebounds 30, assists 11, steals 0, turnovers
Scoring by quarter:
Nelson 6-13 1-2 19, Brackney 6-11 2-3 15, Smith 4-6 1-1 11, Cosby
3-4 1-1 7, Turner 2-3 0-0 6, Miller 2-5 0-0 6, Green 1-1 2-3 4,
Bowlby 0-2 1-2 1, Coyne 0-0 0-0 0, Kirby 0-2 0-0 0. Team 24-47 8-12
3-point field goals 13-27 (Nelson 6-11, Smith 2-2, Turner 2-3,
Miller 2-5, Brackney 1-4, Kirby 0-1, Cosby 0-1).
Rebounds 22 (Bowlby
5), assists 17 (Cosby 7), steals 10 (Cosby 4), turnovers 6.
McMinn 14, Carlson 12, Ward 8, Nolen 6, Renshaw 4, Pethy 3. Team
17-37 5-5 47.
3-point field goals 8-20.
Rebounds 23, assists 8,
steals 2, turnovers 16.
Scoring by quarter:
Named to the all-tournament team
were Lincoln's Ben Brackney and Jordan
Nelson, Centennial's Rayvonte Rice, Belleville Althoff's Alex
Mumphard and Carson Sonnenberg, Danville's D'Lando Carter and Joey
Robinson, and Cahokia's Jarrion Norris.
Final standings: Centennial 5-0, Lincoln 4-1, Althoff 3-2,
Danville 2-3, Cahokia 1-4, Rochester 0-5.
Look for more information later this week with other notes and tidbits
from this year's tournament
[Special report by JEFF