Lincoln used a strong defensive effort and a balanced scoring
attack to dominate SHG 49-30. The win moves the Railers to break-even on the season (13-13) and in the conference (7-7).
When Railer Nation walked into Jim Belz Gymnasium, the improvements
to the facility were quite noticeable. This certainly is not the
same building we are used to seeing. With new flooring, entrance,
concession stand and lighting, just to mention a few, the
appearance was a much cleaner, open space.
Well, the Railer team
that squared off against the Cyclones was also not the same squad that
lost to SHG by six in mid-January. Trailing by as many as a dozen in
the first matchup, Lincoln faced only one deficit Friday night -- after SHG
scored the game's first basket.
A key to Lincoln's early start was the dribble penetration of Max
Cook. The sophomore had two driving layups after getting past his
defender, the second resulting in a foul and old-fashioned three-point play. Cook's points
sandwiched a long 3 from Austin Kirby,
all helping the Railers to an early 8-4 advantage.
SHG was able to
knot the game at eight with leading scorer Austin Eagleton making a
free throw and his first 3 of the night. For much of the first
quarter, the Lincoln defense did what it failed to do in the
Cyclones' 42-36 win in Lincoln. Eagleton forced a number of 3s
in the first quarter, caused mostly by the Railers pushing him back
two to three feet behind the arc, not letting him stand at the edge
of the stripe. The frustration caused was evident in each subsequent
forced shot from Eagleton.
The second quarter was all about the 3s. Christian Van Hook, who
was able to avoid serious foul trouble, started the scoring with a
3. After a Cyclone basket, it was Will Podbelsek's turn to hit
from long range. With the score 14-12, the Railers went on a 12-0
run, thanks in large part to hot shooting from 3-point range.
Kirby hit his second 3 of the night to get the run started. It
was not the first big shot the senior would hit on the night. Van
Hook converted on a basket and free throw as the Railers' leading
scorer faked setting a screen down low, made a quick move back to
the basket, caught a bullet pass and laid it up and in. Up 20-12,
the senior barrage continued with 3s from Jake Olson and Jordan Gesner. SHG was finally able to get on the board again near the end
of the half, but the Railer advantage going into the locker room was
12 at 26-14.
The Cyclones (12-12, 8-7) picked up where they left off at the end
of the half, getting a 3 from Eagleton. The leading Cyclone
scorer had been held to just four first-half points. Leading 26-17,
the Railers got on the board in the second half on a backdoor pass from Cook
to Gesner. Then it was back to Eagleton for SHG, hitting
two more 3s, bringing SHG as close as they had been since early
in the second quarter. In need of a big shot, Lincoln turned back to
the seniors, with Kirby connecting on his third 3 of the night,
pushing the lead back to nine at 31-22. Kirby tied his season high
with nine on the night.
From one senior to another, the rest of the quarter belonged to Van
Hook. Drawing ever closer to 500 career points, Van Hook scored six
in a row for the Railers, including a jumper from the left wing for
Lincoln's final points of the third. His shot seemed to be too early
in the offense as the clock was winding down. What the make did was
make it possible for the Lincoln "D" to show off, as SHG could never
get into rhythm and failed to even get a shot as the horn sounded to
end the third quarter with Lincoln up by 10 at 37-27.
An early score from SHG brought them to within eight to start the
fourth. Fortunately for the Railers, it was the final time their
deficit would be in single digits. Since the seniors were in the
spotlight for much of the Railer success, it seemed fitting that two
seniors would connect on one of the game's nicer baskets and start a
game-clinching 10-0 run. On a crisp backdoor cut, Gesner made a
difficult catch of a needle-threading pass from Olson, and his
momentum forced him to switch to a reverse layup with the left hand.
Another bucket from Gesner stretched the Lincoln lead to 41-29. No
matter how hard they tried, things just weren't going right for the
In a position of being forced to foul, the Railers got
their next six points from the line as Cook and Gesner made all six
of the charity tosses. The Cyclones were able to add their final
point from the free-throw line to make it 47-30. The scoring was
rounded out on free throws from Dane Eimer and Tommy Harris, and the
19-point win was in the bag.
[to top of second column]
Coach Neil Alexander, noting a few areas he would like to see
tightened, was mostly pleased with his team's effort. "I'm real
proud of how we played tonight. It's as close to playing a full
32 minutes as we've done all year," Alexander said. "But, if we
come out tomorrow (Saturday) night and don't take care of
things, then tonight will have meant nothing."
The Railers were led in scoring by seniors as they combined for
35 of the 49 points. Van Hook, now just four points away from
500 at LCHS, led the team with 12 points, followed by Gesner's
11 points. Kirby added nine, as did sophomore Cook. Cook was
limited to only a few minutes of action in the second half with
what appeared to be a lower leg injury on his left side. Olson
rounded out the senior scoring with three, joining Podbelsek
with three in the contest. Eimer and Harris each added a free
How important were the seniors Friday night? Alexander had
nothing but praise. "For a team to win, they have to have senior
leadership. The younger kids can play, but they need seniors to
lead them," Alexander noted. "Whether it's experience, maturity,
strength, you need seniors, and tonight, all the seniors that
played, I just can't single one out, they all did a great job.
Really proud of them."
The Railers are back in action tonight when they will play the
first of the final four regular-season games as they welcome
Mahomet-Seymour to Roy S. Anderson. The matchup with the
Bulldogs is scheduled to begin at 7:30, with the sophomore game
slated to go at 6. The Lincoln sophomores fell on Friday night
Van Hook 5 1-1 12, Gesner 4 2-2 11, Kirby 3 0-0 9, Cook 2 5-5 9,
Olson 1 0-0 3, Podbelsek 1 0-0 3, Eimer 0 1-2 1, Harris 0 1-2 1,
Block 0 0-1 0, Heidbreder 0 0-0 0, Bowlby 0 0-0 0. Team 16 10-13
49. 3-point field goals 7 (Kirby 3, Podbelsek, Van Hook, Gesner,
Eagleton 13, Lowis 8, Turner 4, N.Moscardelli 2, Aiello 2,
Sestak 1. Team 12 2-5 30. 3-point field goals 4 (Eagleton 4).
Scoring by quarters:
LCHS 8-18-11-12 49
SHG 8- 6-13- 3 30
Decatur Regional schedule:
Feb. 27 , 7:30
p.m. -- No. 4 Mount Zion vs. No. 5 Bloomington
Feb. 28, 7 :30
p.m. -- No. 1 LINCOLN vs. winner of game 1
Feb. 29, 7:30 p.m.
-- No. 2 Decatur MacArthur vs. No. 3 Decatur
March 2, 7:30 p.m. -- Winners of games 2 and 3 for
[By JEFF BENJAMIN]
Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles