Saturday, December 15, 2012
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Foiled last-second shot helps Railers take win over Southeast

By Jeff Benjamin

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[December 15, 2012]  SPRINGFIELD -- For the second week in a row, the fate of the Lincoln Railers hinged on a last-second shot by their opponents. Last week, a buzzer-beater resulted in a heartbreaking overtime loss to Jacksonville. Friday night, another last-second shot. However, tough defense kept Southeast's Herman Senor from getting a good look at a game-winning 3, and the Railers muscled their way to a 52-50 win at Scheffler Gymnasium in Springfield.

Lincoln's Max Cook, who was fouled on a layup with 40 seconds to go, hit a free throw to complete a three-point play to set up the opportunity for the home squad to win. Tough defense by the Railers forced Senor to take an off-balance 3 going away from the basket, and as the ball bounced off the back of the rim, the Railers and their fans jumped in excitement as Lincoln pulled out the win.

The victory pushes the Lincoln record to 6-2, 2-1 in conference play, while the Spartans drop to 5-2 on the year, suffering their first CS8 loss, falling to 1-1.

When this one started, you might have been hard-pressed to find anyone who could have seen Lincoln getting out with the win. Southeast used their speed and hot outside shooting from Senor and Jagger Anderson to storm to a quick 10-0 lead. It was at the halfway mark of the first quarter before Cook drained a 3 to get the Railers on the board. Another 3 from Senor, who scored 14 points in the first half, put Southeast back up by double figures, but Lincoln continued to hang tough, getting a steal and layup from Cook and a 15-footer from Will Podbelsek to climb to within 13-7. All the work seemed to be erased as Anderson hit a 3 to close out the first and send Lincoln into the second quarter down nine at 16-7.

In what would be a big understatement to refer to the game as physical, the Railers continued to fight. In fact, Lincoln coach Neil Alexander referred to the first half as "brutal." Going away from what has traditionally been the game plan of Lincoln, the Railers took the physical play to the Spartans and slowly began getting back into the game. "Our kids didn't quit," said Alexander. "They got down 10, but they kept fighting out there." After another quick five-point burst gave Southeast their largest advantage of the evening at 11, a basket from Edward Bowlby and a 3 from Tyler Horchem brought the Railers to within six.

After trading baskets, and then another 3 from the Spartans, another 3 from Horchem began an 11-2 run the Railers would use to tie the game going into halftime. Down 28-24, after Gavin Block was fouled on a layup, the rest of the Railer points in the quarter came from the free-throw line. The key play occurred with 51 seconds left, when Southeast's 6-foot-8 Jalen Henry fouled Horchem and picked up his third foul. The foul trouble would prove costly for the Spartans at the end of the game.

Unfortunately, all the momentum the Railers had going into halftime was left there as Southeast quickly bolted out to a four-point lead. Unlike the first quarter when the run reached 10, Lincoln went on their own 10-0 run, including Block's 3-pointer at the 3:52 mark to give the Railers their first lead of the night at 33-32. Another basket from Block, a free throw from Cook and a basket from Horchem stretched the Railer lead to 38-32.

Southeast answered with four of their own, and after Bowlby scored, the Spartans took the lead back before the third ended at 41-40.

The fourth quarter was simply all-out war. It was an eight-minute example of just how physical and tough Central State Eight basketball can be, especially when the uniforms read Lincoln and Southeast. Horchem's basket put Lincoln back up 42-41, but that was followed by a Deangelo Hughes' 3 that gave the hosts a two-point spread. Two free throws from Block tied the game at 44. Although there was not much substituting by coach Alexander, the Railers got very important minutes from Bobby Dunovsky, Austin Krusz and Payton Ebelherr. With Bowlby and Podbelsek hampered by foul trouble, the bench was called on to keep Lincoln in the game while allowing their teammates to get rest while avoiding a fifth foul.

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At the 5:11 mark, both Podbelsek and Bowlby returned to the game. It also marked the point where Cook took over. The junior, who has been handling a lot of the responsibilities of the point guard, had not yet found his scoring form. "We asked Max to give us some scoring," Alexander said. "He does so many other things for us, but this was the type of game that Max really could do some things." Cook's layup on the left side put Lincoln back up 46-44. After a floater in the lane from DeAndre Crawford, inserted into the game after both Henry and Luke Jackson fouled out, tied the game at 46, Cook was fouled and split a pair of free throws to give Lincoln the 47-46 lead.

After Southeast pulled back in front at 48-47, Podbelsek's layup gave the lead back to Lincoln. The Spartans got their final points of the night when Crawford's jumper in the lane swung the game back to the Spartans at 50-49. Cook then made a move on the right baseline and was fouled by Anderson while making the layup. His free throw with 40 seconds to go put the Railers up by two, setting the stage for another Lincoln-Southeast nail-biter.

The Spartans ran the clock down to 8.8 seconds and took a timeout to set up their final shot. Most everyone in the building knew that Senor wanted to take the shot, especially since he had not yet scored in the fourth quarter. Alexander knew they would look to Senor. "We knew they would run some type of high pick, so we wanted to bring a wing up and double-team," Alexander explained. "There was a handoff that wasn't handled well. Our defense played very well."

Senor grabbed the ball, dribbled to the right and fired off a shot that hit the back of the rim and bounced away, sending Railer Nation home happy. It made a certain coach happy as well. "As disappointed and down as I felt last week," Alexander stated, "I feel just that good this week. We didn't give up, kept in the game, and did not panic."

The Railers were led by the night's emotional leader, Cook, with 17 points. Horchem and Block each added 11, while Podbelsek scored seven and Bowlby scored six. Cook also led the team with seven rebounds and six assists. Cook's ability to drive to the basket not only opened up options for him, but for his teammates. Lincoln finished hitting 19 of 36 shots on the night, including a net-burning 14 of 18 (78 percent) inside the 3-point line.

It was a big win for the Railers, a team looking for confidence after the Jacksonville game. Will they be able to carry momentum from this one to next week? Well, Lincoln is back in action on Friday night as they are back home to take on Glenwood, a team coming off an overtime loss to Jacksonville. The varsity will tip around 7:30, with the JV startng things off at 6. The JV got the night off to a good start on Friday with a 51-39 win.

If you have yet to finish shopping for that Railer fan in your life, might I suggest some Tums, maybe an economy size. With six of their eight games so far being decided by five points or less, don't be surprised if games like Friday night are the rule and not the exception. I think I've been through one bottle already, but, yeah it's worth it.



Cook 6 3-5 17, Block 3 4-5 11, Horchem 4 1-2 11, Podbelsek 3 1-2 7, Bowlby 3 0-0 6, Ebelherr 0 0-0 0, Dunovsky 0 0-0 0, Krusz 0 0-0 0. Team 19 9-14 52. 3-point field goals 5 (Cook 2, Horchem 2, Block).


Senor 19, Anderson 7, Hill 6, Hughes 6, Henry 6, Crawford 4, Jackson 2. Team 20 2-4 50. 3-point field goals 8 (Senor 5, Hughes 2, Anderson).

Scoring by quarters:

LCHS  7-21-12-12 52
SEast  16-12-13-9 50


Railer-related information:

Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles

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