would the first game of this season's series live up to last year's
festivities? Coming in, it didn't look it, with the Railers
below .500, while Lanphier was undefeated in conference play and
the No. 1 team in Class 3A.
When Christian Van Hook, who
had been saddled with foul trouble all night, drained a 3
from that same "coyne-er" with about 30 seconds to go, he capped
a 12-0 run to give Lincoln a 36-35 lead, and an upset of the
state's top 3A team was looking like a real possibility.
Unfortunately, Lanphier super sophomore Larry Austin Jr. was
fouled with 17.4 seconds to go and made both ends of the one-and-one to put the Lions up to stay. Two more free throws brought
us to the final score, showing that Lanphier had survived
Lincoln, but just barely, 39-36.
Lober-Nika Gymnasium is always one of those places where, if
anything is going to happen, that is where it will be. Friday
night was no different. By the time nine seconds had run off
the first-quarter clock, Lanphier had been whistled for a foul
trying to corral the opening tip, and Lincoln turned the ball
back to the Lions. Fouls played a key role in the outcome of
It would be hard to determine if the opening stages of the first
quarter were highlighted by good defense or plagued by
When Van Hook connected for a 3-pointer at the 4:30 mark, the evening's scoreless tie was
broken. The Railers extended to a 5-0 lead on a Van Hook alley-oop
layup on a pass from Max Cook.
The trouble for Lincoln in the
first quarter came a few moments later as Van Hook picked up his
second foul at the 3:38 mark. With Van Hook's presence
necessary on both ends of the court, coach Neil Alexander was
hoping the senior could play through the early foul trouble.
Well, 25 seconds later that foul trouble mushroomed when he
picked up his third foul and headed to the bench for the rest of
After Lanphier made both free throws, Jordan Gesner hit his only
3 of the night to push the Lincoln lead to 8-4. More fouls
from Lincoln continued to send Lanphier to the line. The first
four fouls by the Railers were all of the two-shot variety. The
Lions made six of the eight free throws in the first quarter,
with Austin making their only two field goals.
Up 10-8, Bowlby,
in for Van Hook, hit a big 3 from the corner to stretch the Railer advantage to 13-8. In a sign of offensive struggles to
come, it was Lincoln's final basket of the half.
Up 13-10 entering the second quarter, Lincoln (11-13, 5-7)
watched as the Lions scored a quick two. After a foul sent Cook
to the line for two shots, where he made one, Lincoln was up
14-12. Lanphier (19-2, 12-0) used their defense to turn the
Railers over one possession after another and string together an
8-0 run to the end the half. The run included two free throws
from Austin that gave Lanphier their first lead of the night at
the 2:06 mark, at 16-14.
The most demoralizing of the points
came as the Lions stripped the ball from the Railers and
conference-leading scorer Everett Clemons hit a shot near the
free-throw line as the buzzer sounded, giving Lanphier a 20-14
lead at the half.
So, the Railers were down by six, playing most of the first half without their
leading scorer and only being outrebounded by two on the road
while playing the No. 1 team in the state. Believe it or not,
Lincoln was in this game, and it didn't look like they were going
A quick 4-0 start from the Railers in the second half on baskets from Gavin Block
and Gesner pulled Lincoln to within a pair at 20-18. Lanphier
answered with four of their own to go back up 24-18. Much of
the third quarter played out that way, as Lincoln never could
knot the game back up, getting close, only to have Lanphier pull
away. A pair of baskets from Cook sandwiched around a Lions
score once again got the Railers close at 26-22.
At the 3:59
mark of the third, Van Hook re-entered the contest with his
three fouls. It didn't take long for No. 4 to find him, as
Van Hook fouled a driving T.J. Davis. The senior made both free
throws, giving them the advantage 28-22 and sending Van Hook back
to the bench.
With that same score showing to start the fourth, Lanphier
started to slowly pull away. After Clemons made two free throws
that ended a 9-2 run, the Lions were up 35-24, and it looked like
their No. 1 ranking was safe for at least another night.
Not so fast.
Showing every bit of grit and determination the coaching staff
has been trying to pull out of this team since November, the
Railer defense toughened and tightened, forcing turnovers,
grabbing defensive rebounds and sticking their foot in the door
that many in orange and black thought was about to slam shut.
Will Podbelsek got the run started with a 3 from the
corner. After a Lanphier miscue, Block was found downcourt on a
run-out, and his layup over the outstretched hand of Austin cut
the game to 35-29. A shot in the lane from Cook let the Railers
creep closer, and it was now time for the Railer Nation to start
making noise while the Lions' fans grew ever quieter. Podbelsek
missed a 3 but got his own rebound, with his layup attempt
rolling off but gathered by Van Hook to cut the game to just a
[to top of second column]
Another Lanphier turnover, most in the slow-down game, gave the ball
back to Lincoln. When Van Hook came around a screen on the
baseline, caught the pass, went up for the shot and drained the 3-pointer, the comeback was complete and the Railers were up 36-35.
On the ensuing possession, Lanphier got the ball to Austin in
the lane, where he was surrounded by three Railers, one of whom was
whistled for a foul. With 17.4 seconds to go, Austin hit both free
Lincoln still had a shot. With the ball getting knocked
out of bounds and after a timeout, the Railers were having
difficulty getting the play they wanted. With 5.3 seconds to go,
Cook's inbounds pass was stolen by Clemons, who was fouled with 3.5
Clemons hit both free throws, putting the Lions up 39-36. Lincoln's
final attempt came from Van Hook, whose desperation three-quarter
court heave came up short, just as the Railers' bid to knock off
The loss was disappointing, but the effort was commendable.
the game, coach Alexander had nothing but praise for his Railers.
"I'm proud of our kids," he said. "Tonight, we fought. For
once, we fought hard."
It also did not seem the Railers were
intimidated at the prospects of playing No. 1 Lanphier.
told the kids flat out, if we came out tonight and played soft, we
were going to home and we were going to run," Alexander said.
Lanphier is not a perimeter team, and the Railers played to that
strength, packing in their zone, daring the Lions to beat them from
the outside. Well, it wasn't from the behind the arc that the Lions
got the win. They did not make a 3-pointer in the game.
game was decided from 15 feet away as Lanphier connected on 19 of 24
free throws, while Lincoln converted on only one of their three
Lincoln was led by Van Hook's 12 points, with Cook adding seven.
Block finished with six, with Gesner adding five, and Podbelsek and
Bowlby each hitting a 3.
The Railers do not have time to think about the almosts, the
we-got-closes, as they are back in action tonight, taking on
Springfield. Lincoln owns a dominating 42-24 victory over the
Senators earlier in the season.
As a reminder, with all Saturday
conference games, varsity tip time is scheduled at 6:30, after the
sophomores get things going at 5 p.m. Coach Gregg Alexander's
team will be looking to bounce back from their 53-46 loss on Friday.
Van Hook 5 0-0 12, Cook 3 1-2 7, Block 3 0-0 6, Gesner 2 0-1 5,
Podbelsek 1 0-0 3, Bowlby 1 0-0 3, Kirby 0 0-0 0, Olson 0 0-0 0,
Hays 0 0-0 0. Team 15 1-3 36. 3-point field goals 5 (Van Hook 2, Podbelsek, Gesner, Bowlby).
Austin 13, Clemons 12, Davis 6, Briggity 4, Boozer 4. Team 10 19-24
Scoring by quarters:
LCHS 13- 1- 8-14 36
Lanphier 10-10-8-11 39
- By playing in the game, Austin Kirby moves into a
tie for 19th
in games played as a Railer. Kirby is now even with Paul
UPDATE ON RAILER ALUMNI
Ben Brackney (Bucknell)
-- next game today vs. Army
Jordan Nelson (Evansville)
-- today at SIU; previous game Feb. 1 at Bradley, 0 points
Louie Schonauer (Nova Southeastern)
-- today vs. Florida Southern; previous game Feb. 1 vs. Eckerd, 8 points, 5 rebounds
Nathaniel Smith (Loras College) -- today vs. University of Dubuque;
previous game Feb. 1 vs. Buena Vista, 8 points, 5 rebounds (stats updated only through game 18)
[By JEFF BENJAMIN]
Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles