Saturday, February 27, 2010
Sports NewsMayfield's Mutterings: A win by any other name would smell as sweet

Railers take share of CS8 title with 52-45 win over Springfield

By Jeff Benjamin

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[February 27, 2010]  SPRINGFIELD -- Well, in his own way, I think Yogi Berra said it best when he said something was "déjà vu, all over again."

In their first meeting in Lincoln this season, Springfield found themselves down early, only to come roaring back to take the lead. In that Jan. 29 contest, the home team was down four at the half, only to see that lead disappear early in the third quarter.

Friday night proved no different in those respects and, in the end, the result was the same, as the Railers survived the Senators 52-45 to claim a share of this season's Central State Eight Conference championship. With Southeast's 14-point win over Jacksonville, the Railers and Spartans both finished at 12-2 on the campaign.


It seemed the game would go down to the wire until Springfield was whistled for an intentional foul on Lincoln junior Jordan Nelson with 43 seconds to go and down 47-42. Nelson made one of the free throws and, with Lincoln getting possession, ended up hitting two more free throws.

Of course, all of Railer Nation knows about Nelson's 3-point shooting ability. However, Nelson and his teammates will most likely be talking about his final two points of the game, a tip dunk in the waning seconds of the contest. Some think it may have been on the rim, but it counts in the scorebook so I'm going with a dunk that had his teammates jumping in excitement on the sidelines.

If you judge a shooter by his pregame warmups, then you would have been really worried about Nelson. Nelson, moving around the perimeter in pregame, couldn't hit at his usual success rate. I guess that's why it doesn't matter until tip-off.

Nelson hit his first 3 from long range and scored 11 in the opening quarter, helping push the Railers to an early 13-point lead late in the first quarter. The Railers scored the first nine of the game, while Springfield did not get on the board until two Willie Wiley free throws.

It was another five in a row before Bryan Bridges scored the first field goal of the game for the Senators, making the score 14-4. Nelson connected on his third 3 to stretch the game to 17-4, and things in Railer Nation were looking very good.

As coach Neil Alexander said, they (Springfield) "are a very good team, and we knew they were going to make a run -- not if, but when."

Make a run they did. The Senators scored the last four of the first quarter and the first basket of the second to pull within 17-10. Five more from Nelson got Lincoln (26-3) back up by nine at 22-13, while Cameron Turner connected from the left corner for his first 3 in some time.

Turner's shot was big at the time as the Lincoln lead went back to double digits at 25-15. But as halftime approached, Springfield (20-7) began their run. Wiley and Bridges inside caused Lincoln difficulty in the paint, as did the outside shooting of Alex Kramer.

Kramer's two 3s in the quarter helped Springfield run off nine in a row to cut the Lincoln lead to 25-24. The final scoring of the quarter came from Austin Kirby, who connected for his only 3 of the night, and the Railers went to the locker room up four, 28-24.

Springfield's defense was able to hold Lincoln's second-leading scorer, Ben Brackney, to only one field goal in the first half.

It didn't take long for the senior night crowd at Duey Gymnasium to reach a fever pitch as the Senators scored the first five of the second half to take their first lead of the night at 29-28.

For much of the third quarter, this game was like a classic heavyweight fight, back and forth, first one team, then the other. Brackney hit a 3 from the right side to give the Railers the lead back at 31-29, but that was quickly answered by Isiah Hale, and the Senators grabbed back the one-point advantage.

A basket and two free throws by junior Nathaniel Smith put Lincoln back up 35-32, but six in a row by the Senators early into the fourth quarter gave Springfield a 38-35 cushion.

As good as this game was, this, however, was the last lead for Springfield. Brackney's only basket of the fourth tied the game at 38. Nelson made another from long range to give the Railers the lead for good at 41-38. After a Springfield basket cut the lead to one again at 41-40, the Railers went on an 11-5 run to end the game.

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The fourth quarter ended up being Springfield getting good looks at the basket but having their shots not fall, while Lincoln made just enough free throws to hang on for the win. For the second game in a row, the free-throw shooting from Lincoln was uncharacteristically poor.

At Moline, Lincoln finished 7 of 12, while Friday night, only 11 of the 18 attempts were made. Not what we have come to expect from a team that shoots almost 80 percent from the line.

This was a grinder game. The butterflies did not go away until late in the game. However, this was a good game for a team heading into regional play next week. If this team is to go far, there will be a lot more games like this: close games where free throws and defense will make the difference.

So far in the regular season, this team has taken us on quite a ride. Now the ride gets tricky. One misstep and the season will end. That is the beauty and pain of the state tournament. At the end of the year, only one team is really happy. Last season, that was Champaign Centennial. If the Railers are to be that team this year, somewhere down the line, that Charger team could be waiting to trip Lincoln up.

Lincoln was led by Nelson's game-high 25 points, with Brackney ending with 11 and Nathaniel Smith joining in double figures with 10. Turner and Kirby each added three, while Brant Coyne was held scoreless but made some key defensive plays along with grabbing important rebounds.

Next up for Lincoln, the first game of the IHSA regional at Mount Zion. The Railers will take the floor for Tuesday's game against Mount Zion at 7:30. If they win, they will play for the regional championship on Friday night against either Decatur MacArthur or Eisenhower.

Like last year, make sure to visit to not only follow the Railers, but each day we'll have the latest scores from the teams and games that could affect the Railers' road to Peoria.



Nelson 8 4-6 25, Brackney 3 3-4 11, Smith 3 4-6 10, Kirby 1 0-2 3, Turner 1 0-0 3, Coyne 0 0-0 0. Team 16 11-18 52. 3-point field goals 9 (Nelson 5, Brackney 2, Kirby, Turner).

Springfield (45)

Bridges 18, Hale 13, Wiley 8, Kramer 6. Team 19 2-2 45. 3-point field goals 5 (Hale 3, Kramer 2).

Lincoln 17-11-7-17
Springfield 8-16-12-9

Other notes:

  • The game was No. 600 for coach Neil Alexander at Lincoln. In that time, he is 455-145.

  • Friday night's game was Ben Brackney's 100th career game.

  • Jordan Nelson's 25 points moves him into 10th all-time with 1,242, passing Joe Cook. Next on the list at No. 9 is Brian Cook with 1,281. Nelson is now 12th all-time in season scoring with 555 points, five points behind Brandon Farmer in 2006-07.

  • Brackney is moving up the list as well. He is now No. 12, passing Larry Lessen. Brackney is now 51 points behind Joe Cook in 11th.

  • With their nine 3s on Friday night, the Railers are 19-1 when they make seven or more 3s in a game. They are now also just 46 3s behind their state record of 286.

Champaign Sectional games

Monday, March 1

  • At Danville -- (4) Urbana vs. (5) Rantoul

  • At Pontiac -- (4) Pontiac vs. (5) Kankakee

  • At Jacksonville -- (4) Jacksonville vs. (5) Springfield SHG

[Special report by JEFF BENJAMIN]

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