Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Sports News

Railers split pair to end holiday classic

By Jeff Benjamin

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[January 03, 2012]  COLLINSVILLE -- The Lincoln Railers lost to Central State 8 conference foe Chatham Glenwood 51-44 in the consolation championship of the 2011 Schnucks Holiday Classic in Collinsville on Friday night, wrapping up a seesaw-type week that left them 2-2 in the tournament and 5-8 heading into 2012. Lincoln advanced to the contest with a convincing 55-43 victory over Plainfield South earlier in the day: a win coach Neil Alexander called "our most impressive win of the season."

As with most of the schedule the rest of the way, it seemed fitting that a Friday night should be spent playing another team from the CS8. The Titans made their way into the nightcap with a win over Belleville Althoff. Glenwood was a surprising combatant in the consolation bracket after falling to Granite City on the tournament's first day.

Friday night's preview of the two conference battles to come was a showdown of 3-pointers and free throws. In the first half, the Railers and Titans combined to go 8 of 27 from behind the arc while making just three 2-point baskets, Lincoln's belonging to Max Cook late in the first half.

Senior Jordan Gesner scored the first six points of the game for the Railers. Those would be his only points of the night. A pair of free throws from Cook gave Lincoln the 8-6 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

After Glenwood (12-2) tied the game at 8, Jake Olson put Lincoln back on top with a deep 3 near the left wing. During an 8-0 run by the Titans, Christian Van Hook picked up his third foul at the 4:31 mark and sat for the rest of the half. The Railers trailed 19-13 at halftime.

The third quarter again was dominated by 3-point shooting, as neither team made a two-point basket. Somehow, Glenwood did not even attempt a shot from inside 3-point range. Lincoln used their shooting to slowly creep back into the contest as Will Podbelsek hit from long range to start the period.

After Glenwood answered with a 3, Gavin Block's two free throws made the score 22-18. Limited to just free throws the rest of the half, it was the clutch outside shooting of senior Austin Kirby that brought the Railers back. Kirby hit two big 3s, his last before the quarter ended, sending the Railers to the final period down only one at 25-24.

The fourth quarter was, well, odd to say the least. After a free throw put Glenwood up a pair, Van Hook's two free throws tied the game at 26. Podbelsek gave the Railers their last lead of the night by hitting two free throws, giving Lincoln the 28-26 advantage.

Glenwood proceeded to go on an 11-3 run to push their margin to six at 37-31, with Lincoln's only points in the span coming from a Van Hook 3 to tie the game at 31. Down 39-33, the Railers made their final push of the game, getting two free throws from Cook and another 3 from Kirby to slice the deficit to one at 39-38.

Then, it got interesting. After Glenwood hit four free throws in a row, Lincoln cut the lead back to three when Cook made a layup with 38.2 seconds to go. After a Railer timeout, Block tied up a Glenwood player near half court. When the whistle blew, it appeared the Railers would be getting the ball back with 31.7 to go on the alternating possession.

Instead, a foul was called on Block, his fifth of the game. Quite a turn, going from down three and getting the ball back to sending Glenwood back to the line, one of your top players in the tournament heading the bench after fouling out and, to add insult to injury, after the first free throw was shot, a technical foul was assessed to coach Alexander. That would give the Titans two more free throws and the ball. After the smoke had cleared, Glenwood was up 46-40 with the ball.

Lincoln kept fouling Glenwood to get back into the game, but the Titans would not cooperate, going 18 of 23 from the line in the fourth quarter. A couple of layups from Podbelsek and Cook got them close, but each time Glenwood stepped up and knocked down free throws.

As for the play with 31 seconds left, coach Alexander was still frustrated by that one.

"That was a held ball. In my mind, he had all ball," Alexander said. "As for the technical, I'll take the blame for that one."

In his postgame comments, Alexander was not as disappointed in the official's call as much as he was his team's rebounding.

"They (Glenwood) hit five 3s in the first half, and I bet most of them were on second- and third-chance opportunities," Alexander commented.

Well, for the game, the Titans outscored the Railers 8-0 on second-chance points. The margin of defeat was seven.

The Railers were led by Cook with 10 points and five assists. Kirby finished with nine, with Podbelsek and Van Hook each adding seven. The duo had five and seven rebounds respectively. Gesner scored an early six but was on the bench for much of the second half. Olson connected for a 3, while Block scored two.

In Lincoln's first matchup of the day, the Railers played their best game of the season in knocking off Plainfield South 55-43. This was a Cougar team that lost to the Railers last season at Collinsville by one point. And, if this game was the best the team had played all year, then Gesner led the way with his best effort. The senior notched a team-high 18 points, was 7 of 11 from the field, hitting all six shots inside 3-point range and tied for the team lead in rebounds with five.

The Railers started strong, getting two baskets from Gesner in the first quarter along with 3s from Block and Podbelsek. After being tied at 10 at the end of one, the Cougars took an early lead at 12-11, but it would be their last of the day. Lincoln went on an 11-3 run, including a lob layup and 3 from Van Hook, an old-fashioned three-point play from Cook thanks to a drive down the left side of the lane, and a long 3 from Gesner.

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That final basket prompted the Cougars to take timeout at the 3:23 mark of the quarter, down 22-15. The break in action seemed to settle down Plainfield South as they closed the gap to two as time ticked down in the half. Lincoln got a big boost of momentum going into half as Block missed a 3 from the top of the key, but the short shot was corralled by Gesner, who laid it as the quarter ended, putting Lincoln up 24-20.

The start of the third quarter seemed to show signs of life for the Cougars, who quickly tied the game at 24. When Podbelsek hit his second 3 of the game, the Railers took the lead back at 29-26. Up 31-28, Lincoln again used a 9-3 run to stretch the lead to nine at 40-31 heading to the fourth quarter.

Something the Railers struggled with in the contest was free throws, finishing 11 of 22. After a Plainfield score, the Railers missed four in a row, two each from Cook and Podbelsek. The latter free throws were of secondary concern at the time, as he was a substitute shooter for Block.

The freshman had to leave the game after being fouled hard by Plainfield's William Nixon. After Nixon and Block were untangled, it was Block who was writhing around under the basket in pain, grabbing uncomfortably at his right foot. After a few moments of attention from the trainer, Block hobbled to the bench. During his absence, the Cougars cut the margin to five at 40-35.

As Railer Nation has gotten used to, it was the defense that ultimately won this game. Up only the five points, a basket by Gesner was immediately followed by a Podbelsek steal and layup at the 4:10 mark left in the game. Block then made one of two free throws after returning, and Lincoln had moved the lead to double figures at 45-35. After a pair of Plainfield free throws cut the lead to seven at 46-39, it was the defense again doubling down. Gesner scored four points in a row on a basket, steal and basket, putting Lincoln up 50-39.


Even with the free-throw difficulties, the Railers managed to hit five of their last six to pull out the win 55-43.

The Railers were led by Gesner's 18 points, while Podbelsek was also in double figures with 13. Block finished with nine, Van Hook scored eight, Cook added five, and Matt Hays scored a basket on a layup.

The Railers were forced to play both games on Friday without sophomore Edward Bowlby. The sophomore who got his first start on Thursday was, although in uniform and on the bench, unavailable due to illness.

Lincoln will now take a short break before starting the 2012 portion of the schedule with a conference doubleheader next weekend. On Friday night, the Railers will be in Springfield to take on the Senators, while the Spartans of Southeast will make a call to Roy S. Anderson on Saturday night.

Here's hoping you and yours have a healthy and happy new year in 2012!



Gesner 7-11 3-4 18, Podbelsek 5-8 0-2 13, Block 2-5 4-5 9, Van Hook 3-11 1-4 8, Cook 1-3 3-7 5, Hays 1-2 0-0 2, Olson 0-0 0-0 0, Kirby 0-2 0-0 0. Team 19-42 11-22 55. 3-point field goals 6-22 (Podbelsek 3-5, Block 1-4, Van Hook 1-5, Gesner 1-5, Cook 0-1, Kirby 0-2). Rebounds 27 (Van Hook, Gesner 5), assists 9 (Block 3), steals 6 (Van Hook 3), turnovers 6.


Presniakovas 21, Nixon 6, Hayes 6, Wright 6, Hill 2, Garrett 2. Team 13-37 14-18 43. 3-point field goals 3-16 (Presniakovas 2, Wright). Rebounds 35, assists 4, steals 4, turnovers 14.

Scoring by quarters:

LCHS 10-14-16-15 55
PSHS 10-10-11-12 43



Cook 3-4 4-6 10, Kirby 3-6 0-0 9, Podbelsek 2-6 2-5 7, Van Hook 1-6 4-4 7, Gesner 2-4 0-0 6, Olson 1-4 0-0 3, Block 0-5 2-2 2, Hays 0-1 0-1 0. Team 12-36 12-18 44. 3-point field goals 8-24 (Kirby 3-6, Gesner 2-3, Van Hook 1-3, Podbelsek 1-4, Olson 1-4, Block 0-4). Rebounds 26 (Van Hook 7), assists 7 (Cook 5), steals 3 (3 tied with 1), turnovers 4.


Allen 17, Gates 13, McAdams 11, Helm 4, Epperum 3, Sharp 2, Thurston 1. Team 11-36 21-29 51. 3-point field goals 8-29 (McAdams 3, Gates 3, Allen 2). Rebounds 37, assists 10, steals 2, turnovers 9.

Scoring by quarters:

LCHS  8-5-11-20 44
GHS    6-13-6-26 51


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