There may have been concern in some circles that Lincoln
might come out flat following Friday night's three-point loss to No. 1 Lanphier. But, on the contrary, the Railers seemed to use the
confidence gained in almost knocking off the state's top team to
jump out to a fast start and cruise to the win.
The Railers got an
early lift on the offensive end from unlikely sources. Senior Austin
Kirby took Lincoln's first three shots, connecting on two, both from
behind the arc, to give Lincoln an early 6-2 lead. With the
Springfield defense now forced to play Kirby a bit more honestly,
the offense opened up for Block. The freshman scored the next eight
points for the Railers, including a pair of 3-pointers, to give
Lincoln an early double-digit lead at 14-4. Baskets from Max Cook
and Will Podbelsek closed out the first quarter scoring with the
Railers up 18-4.
The domination by the Railers (12-13, 6-7) continued in the
second quarter. After the Senators scored the period's first basket,
Lincoln went on another 8-3 spurt to jump out to a 26-9 lead.
Included in that was a steal and basket from Cook, who seems to get
at least one easy basket a game thanks to his quick hands and solid
defense. In the waning seconds of the half, Jordan Gesner's shot
missed the mark, but Christian Van Hook was in the right place at
the right time, as his offensive rebound and putback dropped just as
the horn sounded, and the Railers went to the locker room up 28-11.
The 17-point margin matched the largest halftime lead enjoyed by the
Third quarter? Yep, more of the same. The intermission did not
take away any of the momentum. Just as he did in the first quarter,
Lincoln's first points of the third came from Kirby, this time on a
cut to the basket and layup. The Senators made one more valiant
attempt to get back into the contest with a brief 6-2 run to get
back to within 15. The Railers were able to run off a 10-3 run to
end the quarter, punctuated by a buzzer-beater from Edward Bowlby.
Heading to the fourth, Lincoln was easily in command 42-20.
Driving layups from Podbelsek and Matt Hays continued the offense
for the Railers to start the fourth, as Lincoln went up 46-20. After
a free throw from the Senators, Podbelsek drained a 3-pointer to end
Lincoln's scoring. Springfield (7-16, 3-10) was able to score the
game's last seven points, but it did nothing but cut the final
margin to 49-28. By holding Springfield to only eight points in the
quarter, the Lincoln defense was able to hold Springfield to
single-digit scoring in all eight quarters they have played this
Something the Railers have been looking for over the past few
games, a better balance to the scoring attack, finally came about on
Saturday night. Block led the way with 11 points, with Van Hook
joining him in double figures with 10. Kirby's strong offensive
night netted him eight points, with Podbelsek adding seven. Gesner
finished with five points, all in the third quarter, with Cook
scoring four. Lincoln got two points each from Bowlby and Hays.
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Even though they finished the weekend splitting the two games, it
seemed like a really good weekend for the Railers. If this team can
continue to play as they did over the past 64 minutes of action,
there will definitely be more wins this season.
Of course, as important as the regular season is, coach Neil
Alexander and his staff are always preparing their team for
postseason play. This weekend was the final opportunity to make a
case as to why they should receive a No. 1 seed in the Decatur
No. 1? Wait, this team is below .500. Yes, that's true, but going
into the weekend they have more wins than the other teams
(Bloomington, Decatur MacArthur and Eisenhower, and Mount Zion) with
the Purple Raiders of Bloomington still looking for their first win
of the season. If the schedule holds true, by the time the Railers
tip off Friday night, we will know their seed and the path the IHSA
has put in front of them. Of course, if the Railers can make it out
of the regional and advance to sectional play, that round of games
would be played at good ol' Roy S. Anderson. Every year, there seems
to be a team with a record hovering around break-even as the
tournament starts. Who says that team can't be the Railers?
The Railers will take to the floor on Friday night at SHG for
their first game after receiving their postseason information. Lincoln
will be looking for a little revenge after the Cyclones knocked off
the Railers at home on Jan. 13 with a 42-36 win. Varsity tip time is
scheduled for 7:30 at Jim Belz Gymnasium.
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).
[By JEFF BENJAMIN]
Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles