The visiting Jacksonville Crimsons have a starting
lineup that eclipses many college teams in terms of height, with all
five starters measuring 6-foot-4 or bigger, including 6-foot-5,
230-pound Dalton Keene and 6-foot-7, 260-pound Blake Hance.
That's not even factoring in scoring machine Josh Peak, who
missed most of last season with a back injury.
But the Crimsons don't just look good on paper. They also have a
record to back it up, with a 4-1 mark in their first five games.
Lincoln coach Neil Alexander called Jacksonville a "legitimate"
threat to win the Central State Eight conference championship.
"They are big," said Alexander. "They have (Hance), who is
about 6-foor-7, 260 pounds, and (Keene), who is 6-foot-5, 230
pounds. They can put a lineup on the floor where everybody is
6-foot-4 or bigger. They're all so long. I would say we match up
with them quickness-wise. But, they are the bigger team by a ways."
Limiting the Crimsons' rebounds will be a key for the Railers
(5-1, 1-0 in Central State Eight), who have been outrebounded in
four of their six games this season.
So we meet again
Another intriguing aspect to the game is the coaching matchup.
Jacksonville coach J.R. Dugan has faced the Railers for more than
a decade in the Central State Eight. Dugan is in his seventh season
at Jacksonville after previously serving as the head coach at
Lincoln is 13-2 against Dugan in Jacksonville's tenure, but one
of those losses came last season.
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Alexander said coaching against Dugan is always a "chess game,"
with each team knowing what to expect from the other, but also
adjusting to new wrinkles that are thrown into the mix every season.
"Well, we've seen his teams enough to know how they're going to
attack us, too. It's a chess game," said Alexander. "It'll just come
down to who performs and executes and hits shots. If you do that,
you'll be in good shape."
Home sweet home
Tonight's game begins a critical stretch for the Railers, with
games the next three Friday nights against conference title
After Jacksonville, the Railers travel to Springfield to take on
Springfield Southeast before returning home to host
Chatham-Glenwood. Southeast and Chatham currently have a combined
record of 10-1, with both teams having won their respective
Thanksgiving tournaments. The lone loss belongs to Southeast, which
fell to Cahokia -- Lincoln's only defeat this season -- at last
weekend's 1450 Shootout in Springfield.
Alexander traveled to Springfield to scout Jacksonville, Chatham
and Southeast personally. All three teams impressed the Railer
Alexander is depending on his team using home-court advantage
this season, especially against Jacksonville and Chatham.
"We saw Southeast, Jacksonville and Chatham. All three of them
are good, no doubt," said Alexander. "You can see why they're talked
about to win the league. We've got home court, though (against
Jacksonville and Chatham); maybe we can get one on the road
(Southeast); and, in every game, hopefully we'll be close at the
[By JUSTIN TIERNEY]