The Lincoln Railers put forth their
best defensive effort of the season on the opening night of the 2012
Meijer Winter Classic, handing Jacksonville a stifling 41-19
defeat. The win was a little payback for a two-point loss in
Jacksonville in mid-December.
Senior Christian Van Hook scored a
game-high 20, with 14 of those in the second half. The win improves
the Lincoln record to 8-10 and 3-4 in the conference. The 19 points
given up represent a season-best defense, besting the previous two
games giving up 24 points.
Offensively, the Railers still have
some issues to iron out, but the defense was at the top of its game,
holding the Crimsons to quarter point totals of four, five, four and
respectively. The Crimsons made only five field goals for the entire
game, none of those in the fourth quarter.
The Railers have struggled when
teams have been able to string together substantial runs against
them. Not only did Jacksonville not have any runs to speak of, they
never had an occasion when they scored any back-to-back points. On
Monday night, Lincoln's "D" got a solid A grade.
One aspect of the Railer offense
that was notable was their passing, both good and bad. During the
first half, Lincoln did an excellent job of throwing the ball
inside and then quickly getting it back outside. The crispness of
the passing usually resulted in wide-open shots from the outside or
easy inside opportunities.
The Railers actually kept
Jacksonville in the game early by missing their first three shots,
all easy attempts. The bad side of the passing was found in the
turnovers caused by the no-look and needless passes on
offense. Jacksonville scored the contest's first basket, which was
finally answered by a 3 from Austin Kirby, getting his second
start in a row.
When the Crimsons' Dalton Keene hit
two of three free throws after being fouled shooting a 3,
Jacksonville enjoyed their final lead of the night at 4-3. The
fouling of shooters, especially behind the line, became an issue
during the game for the Railers. Van Hook scored two baskets in a
row, followed by a bucket from Gavin Block to give Lincoln the lead
9-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Jacksonville scored the first
basket of the second, fouled in the process. After missing the free
throw, the Crimsons again watched the Railers use sharp interior
passing to grab easy scores from Edward Bowlby and Van Hook. Up
13-6, the flow of the game made it feel as though Lincoln should
have been up by at least 15. Jacksonville got their only other
points of the quarter on an old-fashioned three-point play, again
fouling a shooter. Will Podbelsek's 3 from the left corner ended
the scoring in the first half at 16-9. It certainly could, and
should, have been more.
With the first-half clock running
down, the Railer offense seemed out of sorts. Usually the play begins with approximately
10 seconds left, but passes were
still being made with under six. As Podbelsek caught a pass with
about four seconds on the right wing, he dribbled through the
Crimson defense, but his shot that went in came well after the
buzzer. The end-of-quarter issues did not seem to please Lincoln
coach Neil Alexander as his team headed to the locker room.
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For the second game in a row, the
third quarter told the tale of the game. After suffering through
only one point on Friday night, the Railers turned it around on
Saturday, outscoring IVC 20-4.
Monday night, it was more of the
latter. A 16-4 smothering of Jacksonville stretched the lead to 19
at 32-13, and the game was essentially over. Lincoln scoring in the
second half was the same as how they started the first half, on a
3 from Kirby. Van Hook scored the next five, including an
acrobatic reverse layup and old-fashioned three-point play. Max
Cook's only basket of the night pushed the score to 26-9. The Railers got their final two baskets of the period on two
The fourth quarter was all Van Hook
and Jacksonville free throw shooting. The senior scored all nine
Lincoln points in the period, while the Crimsons struggled to
score. Coming up empty in the field goal department, Jacksonville
was fortunate the Railers kept fouling shooters, twice while they
were behind the 3-point line.
When the final buzzer sounded, it
was another good effort from the Railers, and coach Alexander is
hoping it continues to carry over.
"Wednesday is a big game for
us," Alexander explained. "We have yet to win three in a row, and it
would be big to do that. Taylorville has gotten a lot better, and
we'll have to play well to win."
On another night of getting scoring
from many outlets, Van Hook's 20 led the way. No other Railer was in
double figures as Kirby and Olson each scored six, Podbelsek hit for
three, while Cook, Bowlby and Block added two each. All this and the Railers were able to come away with the big win while getting no
points from their second-leading scorer, Jordan Gesner.
The Railers will be back in action
Wednesday night back in Chatham, taking on Taylorville. The
Tornadoes opened the tourney by falling to Highland 52-50. It was a
game they had a chance to win, including their half-court shot at the
buzzer grazing the front of the rim, just that close from a huge win
for Taylorville. Wednesday's game is scheduled to tip at 5 p.m.,
the first of the session, so it should be on time.
Van Hook 9 1-2 20, Kirby 2 0-0 6,
Olson 2 0-0 6, Podbelsek 1 0-0 3, Cook 1 0-0 2, Block 1 0-0 2,
Bowlby 1 0-1 2, Gesner 0 0-0 0, Eimer 0 0-0 0, Hays 0 0-0 0,
Heidbreder 0 0-0 0. Team 17 1-3 41. 3-point field goals 6 (Kirby
2, Olson 2, Podbelsek, Van Hook).
Dugan 7, Pate 6, Jackson 2,
Armstrong 2, Keene 2. Team 5 9-13 19.
Scoring by quarters:
LCHS 9-7-16-9 41
JHS 4-5- 4-6 19
[By JEFF BENJAMIN;
Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles