I'm not only talking about the 2011-2012 regular season that came
to a close on Friday night, but also the four years of basketball
celebrated on Senior Night at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium.
Unfortunately, the Railers could not close out the regular campaign
with a victory, falling to No. 2-ranked Springfield Lanphier
51-38. The loss leaves the Railers at break-even on the season at
15-15, while giving Lanphier a perfect regular season in the CS8 at
It was only three weeks ago when Christian Van Hook's jumper in the
final minute allowed Lincoln to complete a furious comeback, only to
watch Lanphier pull the game out at the free-throw line, escaping
with a three-point win. For three quarters last night, the Railers
stayed within striking distance. However, a 13-2 outburst to start
the fourth allowed the Lions to pull away for the 13-point win.
Unlike the matchup in Springfield, when the Railers jumped out early,
it was Lanphier that staked an early claim, racing out to a 10-2
lead, with Lincoln's only basket coming from Van Hook on the inside.
The senior pulled the Railers closer with a pair of free throws and
the first of his two 3-pointers of the quarter, cutting the lead
to 10-7. After another Lanphier score, it was Van Hook hitting from
long distance again. With all the turnovers and faltering on the
boards, Lincoln was only down two at 12-10.
One of the keys to the Lincoln loss at Lanphier was the foul trouble
for Van Hook. After picking up his third foul in the first four
minutes, he was on the bench for much of the next two quarters. How
important was he on Friday night? Well, the scoreboard could have
easily read Lanphier 12, Van Hook 10. He scored all of the Railers'
points in the first quarter and continued his streak after Lanphier
scored by hitting Lincoln's first basket of the second.
turnovers. Lincoln usually likes to keep their turnover total in
single digits. The Lanphier defense hounded the Railers into 22
turnovers for the game and used them to go on runs like the 7-0
burst that put them up 21-12. Every time Lanphier forced a Lincoln
miscue, it seemed the Lions were downcourt faster than you could
say "turnover." The second-ranked team in the state in 3A is an
athletic and quick team, all of which was on display last night.
The first-half scoring ended when Gavin Block became the first Railer other than Van Hook to score, and his basket sent the teams
into the locker room with Lanphier on top 21-14.
Much of the entire game felt like the Lions (23-3) would go up by
seven to nine points, only to have the Railers cut the lead down to
three to five, occasionally down to two. But, every time that
happened, Lanphier would the stretch the game back out to that near
An early score from Lanphier pushed the lead back to nine at 23-14.
Lincoln continued to rely on Van Hook, who kept on delivering,
hitting two more 3s to pull Lincoln within three at 23-20.
Already, Van Hook had 18 of Lincoln's 20 points and tied his career
high of four 3s made in a game. Just as quickly as Lincoln was
back to within one possession, Lanphier scored a quick four to
extend the lead to seven. Van Hook scored on a lob to make it 27-22,
while the Lions answered again and the advantage was back to seven.
Although it was Senior Night, Lincoln got a big lift late in the
third from sophomore Edward Bowlby. Bowlby made a strong move to the
basket and was fouled. After hitting the free throws and seeing
Lanphier answer the points, Bowlby made a nice move inside to bring
the Railers back to within five at 31-26. A pair of free throws
ended the Lanphier scoring in the quarter. Lincoln closed out the
quarter strong as Max Cook scored his only basket of the night on a
backdoor, thanks to a nice entry pass from Jordan Gesner. The Railer
scoring ended when Van Hook sank all three free throws after being
fouled behind the arc in the left corner. Lincoln had cut the
contest to a pair at 33-31 heading into the fourth.
The physical play was not only on display on the court, but late in
the third quarter a Lanphier fan was escorted from the gym area by
Lincoln police. There certainly is no love lost between Lanphier and
Lincoln, whether on the court or in the stands.
It is basketball math and the Railers got a crash course in it
during the fourth quarter. The intensified pressure applied by the
Lions forced Lincoln into one mistake after another and, unlike
their effort earlier in the month, Lanphier capitalized, stretching
the lead from two at the start of the quarter to 13 quicker than you
could say "turnover." Down 46-33, Block sank a pair of free throws, but
it was not going to be enough. On Friday night, Lanphier was heading
toward an undefeated conference season, and in the fourth quarter
they hit that extra gear and they would not be denied. The Railer
scoring ended when Austin Kirby hit for 3, but there were too
many turnovers, second-chance points and rebounds that all fell in Lanphier's favor for Lincoln to make any more comebacks.
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Heck, the Railers couldn't even get the friendly treatment from
the rims at Roy S. Anderson. A number of early shots by the
Railers were down, and then out, while those nice, soft bounces
and rolls went the way of the Lions.
The Railers were led by Van Hook's 23 points. Another key to the
Lanphier explosion in the fourth was their ability to hold Van
Hook scoreless. Block and Bowlby added four, while Kirby scored
three. Cook and Gesner chipped in with a basket each.
The night got off to a good start as the Railers came up big in
the sophomore game, winning 67-42.
So, the regular season is done and it is on to regional play.
The Railers will not know their opponent until Monday night, when
the winner of the Mount Zion-Bloomington game will square off
against Lincoln the next night at Decatur MacArthur High School.
Tip times are scheduled for 7:30, but show up early to support
Lincoln's participants in the 3-point contest.
This also may not be the last time Lincoln-Lanphier happens on
the court. With the winners of the Decatur and Springfield
regionals slated to play a sectional semifinal game, it is
possible those teams could be the same squads that faced off
Friday night in Lincoln. It would be nice to get one more
chance, wouldn't it?
A special mention to all the seniors who were recognized before
the game, including those in the pep band, pom squad, cheer
squad and basketball team. For the basketball team, the seniors
who received the spotlight introduction were Jake Olson, Matt
Hays, Austin Kirby, Jordan Gesner and Christian Van Hook. It is
hard to believe that when next season rolls around, those five
will have moved on to the next phase of their lives and their
participation in Lincoln basketball will have become just a
memory. Thank you for the hard work and time you have
dedicated to being members of one of the most tradition-laden
programs in the state of Illinois.
On a personal note, I guess we all have pet peeves or things
that can rub us the wrong way, so here goes. I want to sincerely
commend the few, and I do mean few, Lanphier fans who were
courteous enough to acknowledge the Lincoln seniors at the end
of the introduction festivities. They were polite enough to
recognize not only Lincoln players or band members or cheerleaders or pom squad members, but
to give credit for students who were
representing their school and had given of their time, and their
families' time, to do so. So, for you few, a tip of the cap. Of
course, there were the majority who did nothing. I've been at a
number of Senior Nights that were road games for the Railers and
have been pleased to see the reaction of Railer Nation. There is
usually applause from the Lincoln fans in the direction of the
honored seniors from the other school, not just plain apathy.
And as for the number of fans I saw waving the "aw, who cares"
hand gesture or the few boos, I'm just glad I have time to
think about what I write before I hit send.
Van Hook 7 5-5 23, Block 1 2-2 4, Bowlby 1 2-2 4, Kirby 1 0-0 3,
Gesner 1 0-0 2, Cook 1 0-0 2, Olson 0 0-0 0, Hays 0 0-0 0,
Podbelsek 0 0-0 0. Team 12 9-9 38. 3-point field goals 5 (Van
Hook 4, Kirby)
Clemons 4 4-6 12, Powers 4 3-4 11, Davis 5 0-0 10, Briggity 3
0-0 8, Austin 3 0-0 6, Wallace 1 2-2 4. Team 20 9-12 51. 3-point
field goals 2 (Briggity 2).
Scoring by quarters:
LCHS 10-4-17-7 38
Lanphier 12-9-12-18 51
[By JEFF BENJAMIN]
Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles