In a back-and-forth affair, Lincoln, once up 11-0, then trailing
27-17, stormed back in the second half to pull away with a 61-45
victory. The win marks the 20th victory of the season, the 28th time
in school history to reach that mark and the 18th campaign in coach
Neil Alexander's career that he has led a team to that milestone.
The fourth-ranked Railers (20-2, 9-1) placed four in double figures
to take the lead in the conference by a game over No. 6
Springfield (16-5, 8-2), which has now lost two of their last three.
The home squad, playing in front of a packed Roy S. Anderson
Gymnasium, fed off the energy to jump to an early 11-0 lead.
It took a couple of minutes to get the first score of the game,
but Ben Brackney's drive to the basket put the Railers on the board.
Junior Brant Coyne followed with a 3 from the corner, while
Jordan Nelson hit from long range and then sank three from the line
after being fouled from behind the arc.
As well as Lincoln played early in the first part of the quarter,
thanks in large part to turnovers from the Senators, the visitors
from the capital city were able to slowly claw their way back into
the game, going on an 11-2 run of their own to trail by only two at
the end of the first quarter.
Brackney got the first basket of the second quarter to push the
Lincoln lead back to 15-11, and then things fell apart.
Bad shot selection, uncharacteristic sloppy passing and
ballhandling -- all that plus improved inside play from the Senators
led them on a 16-2 run to take a double-digit lead of their own at
The game's turning point took place just before halftime. Down
29-20, Reuben Bowlby hit two free throws to cut the deficit to
seven. As the closing seconds ticked down, a steal by Cameron Turner
led to Brackney hitting a 3 from just to the right of the top of
the key to send the teams into the locker room with Springfield on
"I thought we just quit playing," Alexander said when asked
about the lull in the first half. "I don't know if we got tired or
ran out of gas or what, but you can't give that opening to a good
team like that."
The momentum carried into the second half as Coyne hit two 3s,
one from the top of the key and the other from the corner, the
second of which tied the game at 31.
After all the ups and downs, Springfield would never get the lead
back. The rest of the quarter belonged to juniors Nathaniel Smith
and Nelson. The duo combined for Lincoln's last 11 points of the
quarter, including Nelson connecting from long range while Smith was
scoring on acrobatic reverse layups after good, hard cuts to the
Again, the Senators would not go away after trailing by as much
as seven in the quarter. A late basket cut the Lincoln lead to 42-39
at the end of three.
Brackney's free throw and an early 3 from Springfield made it a
one-point game early in the fourth quarter, and the stage seemed set
for one of those fantastic finishes.
Unfortunately for the Senators, the Railers ran their spread
offense to perfection, reeling off an 18-2 run to finish the game,
including the final 10 points of the contest.
It was more Smith driving to the basket and free throws. The
Railers started the second half missing three of their four
attempts, but, when it counted, connected on 10 in a row to finish
the game 17 of 20 from the line.
After the game, Alexander was very pleased with his team's
effort. "Because of their defense, we ended up with a lot of
mismatches, especially for Smitty, and he took advantage of them. We
beat a good basketball team tonight. I thought everyone played really well and
tough," he said. "Also, the crowd was fantastic."
Except for the stretch midway through the first quarter until the
end of the second, the Railers played really well. But, in every
game, there is that stretch -- that period of time when shots aren't
falling, bad shots are being taken, and things go from bad to worse to ... well,
will the bad ever end?
Friday night, there was enough backbone to stand up, push back
and get the conference lead back. As the season draws closer to
tournament time, this team cannot afford these stretches.
[to top of second column]
When March gets here, one bad stretch could see the uniforms and
basketballs put up for the season. However, should this team choose
to show that backbone and toughness they displayed on Friday night
for the rest of the season, they will be the ones forcing other
teams to close the book on another season while the Railers move on.
A good night of balanced scoring saw Brackney lead with 17 points,
followed closely by Smith's 16 and Nelson's 15. Coyne rounded out
the double-figure scorers with 11, while Bowlby added two free
throws. The Railers shot 48 percent for the game, while holding
Springfield to 39 percent. The game also marked the first time the
Railers had trailed at the half and still won this season.
Things do not get any easier for the Railers. After an off day on
Saturday, they are back on the road Friday night at Southeast. The
Spartans were winners on Friday night and are now tied for second in
the conference with Springfield.
The other scores from the CS8 from Friday night saw Southeast
knock off Jacksonville 64-52, Lanphier easily over Taylorville
88-35, and Glenwood fell at home to SHG 39-31. Through Friday night,
the conference standings look this way: Lincoln 9-1, Springfield
8-2, Southeast 8-2, Lanphier 6-4, Jacksonville 4-6, Glenwood 3-7,
SHG 2-8 and Taylorville 0-10.
As always, if it's Railer information you want, the place to turn is
Brackney 6-12 4-5 17, Smith 6-10 4-6 16, Nelson 4-12 5-5 15, Coyne
3-4 2-2 11, Bowlby 0-0 2-2 2, Kirby 0-1 0-0 0, Turner 0-1 0-0. Team
19-40 17-20 61. 3-point field goals 6-17 (Coyne 3-4, Nelson 2-8, Brackney 1-3, Smith 0-1, Turner 0-1). Rebounds 22 (Smith, Brackney
6), assists 8 (Smith 3), steals 9 (Smith 4), turnovers 13.
Wiley 5-10 3-3 13, Bridges 6-9 0-2 12, Gilchrese 5-14 0-1 11, Hale
2-9 2-2 7, Burnett 1-3 0-0 2, Klunick 0-4 0-0 0, Stolleis 0-0 0-0 0.
Team 19-49 5-8 45. 3-point field goals 2-12 (Hale 1-3, Gilchrese
1-6, Burnett 0-1, Klunick 0-2). Rebounds 33 (Wiley 10), assists 9 (Gilchrese,
Hale 3), steals 6 (Bridges 3), turnovers 16.
With the second of two free throws late in the game, Jordan Nelson
hit the 1,100-point mark for his career. He is now only four points
behind Paul Kendrick for 12th all-time.
Nelson's two 3s allowed him to tie Jason Osborn for third
all-time with 200 made in his career.
By playing, Brackney is now tied for 11th in games played, drawing
even with Ryne Komnick at 93 games.
[Special report by JEFF BENJAMIN]