Monday, January 09, 2012
Sports News

Railers reach halfway point with loss to Southeast

By Jeff Benjamin

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[January 09, 2012]  1, 2, 3.

Although those are the numbers of the first Lincoln exit coming from the south on Interstate 55, that's not what I'm talking about. Those numbers have been used to represent a myriad of things. However, after Saturday night, those numbers identify the margins of defeat suffered by the Lincoln Railers in conference play so far this season. Saturday night's 58-55 loss at the hands of rival Springfield Southeast was just the latest CS8 matchup where the Railers were just that close.

"We've had a lot of those," coach Neil Alexander said after his squad fell to 6-9 on the season and 2-3 in the conference. "We just have to find a way to win them. We're right there."

If you weren't at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium on Saturday night as the Railers reached the halfway point of the regular season, no matter the outcome, you missed a good basketball game. A game filled with runs, comebacks and some outstanding individuals efforts kept the crowd on the edge of their seats until the final buzzer. That buzzer sounded as Jordan Gesner's 3 to tie the game bounced off the rim and was grabbed by Chris Davis from Southeast to capture the victory.

Davis was one of the three bad guys in the eyes of the Railer Nation. The Southeast senior corralled a game-high 13 rebounds, dominating the glass on both ends of the court. It was one of the areas of focus for the Railers going into the game.


"That was something we stressed; it was on our board: rebound the basketball," Alexander said. "When we did the little things like blocking out, then we would stand there and let them get it. We have to go after it."

It was another area of focus that eluded the Lincoln defense, mainly in the first quarter.

"Our board said 14 is a great shooter," Alexander commented, referring to Southeast junior Herman Senor. "We finally decided to pay attention, but it shouldn't have taken four made shots to do that."

In fact, Senor scored Southeast's first dozen points. Senor's final three of the quarter ignited a 10-2 run to put the Spartans up 19-12.

How important was Senor to the early success for Southeast? The Railer defense held him scoreless in the second quarter, allowing Lincoln to have their best quarter of the night and turn a seven-point deficit into a four-point lead at the half. The quarter started just as Friday's night second eight minutes did, with Max Cook turning a Railer steal into a layup to cut the deficit to five.

A Tives Gardner 3 put Southeast up eight, but two 3s from Gesner and an old-fashioned 3-point play from Christian Van Hook put the Railers in the lead 23-22. Gardner hit again from long range to give the lead back to the Spartans (7-6, 4-2). An alley-oop from Cook to Van Hook tied the contest; then 3s from Cook and Van Hook put Lincoln up six. A late score from Southeast cut the game to four at the half.

An easy score by Southeast to start the third cut the Lincoln lead to two. Van Hook, who led the team with a career-high 25 points, scored the first Railer points to get the game to 33-29. After a Spartan bucket and a Van Hook free throw, the Spartans connected from long range to tie the contest at 34.

In continuing the theme of runs, it was Cook and Van Hook scoring in a 5-0 spurt to push the lead to 39-34. The Spartans returned the favor with a little extra. A 7-0 run put Southeast back up 41-39. A Van Hook basket tied the game at 41 as the seesaw affair headed to the fourth quarter.

Now, we've revealed the first two of the three bad guys for Southeast. First, Davis the rebounder, then Senor the shooter. The third one? Gardner the subtle. The 5-9 senior, who had only eight points at half, scored five more in the third. Gardner wasn't flashy from long range or grabbing rebounds, but his leadership kept the Spartans settled, leaving them in a position to be even heading into the final quarter.

Another 3 from Southeast put the visitors on top 44-41 to start the quarter. The Railers got back to within one after a Cook drive down the left side of the lane against the Southeast big men. A pair of free throws from Southeast, followed by Gavin Block hitting his only two free throws of the night, left the Railer deficit at one.

Van Hook's final basket of the night, a 3-pointer, gave Lincoln the lead at 48-46. The back-and-forth of the CS8 battle continued with Southeast tying it but the Railers taking the lead right back after Cook connected on two free throws, two of his career-high 12 points. The advantage went back to Southeast on another 3. Down 51-50, the Railers went for the lead with Van Hook trying a top-of-the-key 3-pointer. The senior missed but was fouled on the shot and, after missing the first free throw, hit the next two to give the Railers the lead 52-51.

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Once again, the pendulum swung to Southeast as they went up 53-52. The biggest play of the final portion of the game came when Gesner's 3 was missed, rebounded by Southeast, who scored on a run-out and was fouled by Van Hook. The 3-point play put the Spartans up 56-52. Showing the heart to not give up, Gesner hit from the right side behind the arc with 19 seconds remaining to bring Lincoln to within one. Two free throws from Gardner, who quietly scored a team-high 20 points for coach Lawrence Thomas, pushed the game back to three. The Railers' final hope bounced off the rim on Gesner's shot and, probably fittingly, Davis grabbed the board to seal the win.

Lincoln was led by Van Hook's 25 points and four rebounds, while Gesner scored 14 and had four boards as well. Cook was the third Railer in double figure with 12 points while adding three steals. Block was the only other player on the board for Lincoln, with four points.

It wasn't the Lincoln shooting. The Railers finished the game making 18 of their 33 shots (55 percent), including almost 50 percent from 3-point range (9 of 19). Lincoln held Southeast to 44 percent, but it was the rebounding and inability to hold down Senor to start the game.

These teams will meet again in late January in Springfield. The atmosphere will certainly be different. For the sake of Lincoln and the Railer Nation, let's hope the outcome is as well.

The Railer sophomore team picked up another win, taking the 46-38 decision.

Both the sophomores and the varsity will be back in action on Friday night. Lincoln will welcome SHG to Roy S. Anderson, with varsity tip time scheduled for 7:30.



Van Hook 8-11 5-7 25, Gesner 5-10 0-0 14, Cook 4-6 3-3 12, Block 1-2 2-2 4, Podbelsek 0-2 0-0 0, Kirby 0-0 0-0 0, Olson 0-1 0-0 0, Hays 0-0 0-0 0, Bowlby 0-1 0-0 0. Team 18-33 10-12 55. 3-point field goals 9-19 (Van Hook 4-6, Gesner 4-9, Cook 1-1, Podbelsek 0-1, Olson 0-1, Bowlby 0-1). Rebounds 16 (Van Hook, Gesner 4), assists 10 (3 tied with 2), steals 6 (Cook 3), turnovers 10.

Southeast (58)

Gardner 22, Senor 18, Anderson 7, Strong 6, Davis 5. Team 19-43 10-11 58. 3-point field goals 10-21 (Senor 6, Gardner 4). Rebounds 26, assists 11, steals 6, turnovers 11.

Scoring by quarters:

Lincoln      12-19-10-14 55
Southeast   19- 8-14-17 58

Other notes: The schedule was released for the 2012 Meijer Winter Classic at Glenwood the week of Jan. 16-21. The Railer schedule shakes out this way:

  • Monday, Jan. 16, 6:30 p.m. -- vs. Jacksonville

  • Wednesday, Jan. 18, 5 p.m. -- vs. Taylorville

  • Friday, Jan. 20, 8 p.m. -- vs. Glenwood

  • Saturday, Jan. 21, 11:30 a.m. -- vs. Rochester

  • Saturday, Jan. 21, 6:30 p.m. -- vs. Highland


Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles

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