Saturday, March 03, 2012
Sports News

Railer season comes to abrupt end

By Jeff Benjamin

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[March 03, 2012]  DECATUR -- In a season filled with ups and downs, it's hard to be any more down than this. I'm sure it's not the way Lincoln coach Neil Alexander wanted to commemorate the 1,000th game in his storied coaching career.

HardwareThe 2011-2012 season for the Lincoln Railers came to a disappointing conclusion on Friday night as they fell to the MacArthur Generals 45-35 in the regional final. The Railers end their season at 16-16, and they will be relegated to being just spectators when the sectional is played next week at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium.

For everything that went right on Tuesday night against Bloomington, that many things and more went wrong last night. From the beginning, it seemed the Railers were half a step slow and not able to match the intensity of the homestanding Generals. Lincoln almost made steals, or lost rebounds by not securing the ball -- all things the Generals were able to capitalize on.

The Railers were able to take an early lead thanks to a free throw from Christian Van Hook. The senior also had Lincoln's only basket of the first quarter, finishing off an alley-oop dunk on a perfect pass from fellow senior Jordan Gesner. The Generals scored the final five points of the quarter to lead 5-3 at the end of the first eight minutes.

On Tuesday night, Lincoln was able to get easy scores by driving the lane. Friday night, MacArthur was able to force the Railers to find a different way to score. After another Van Hook basket, this from just inside the free-throw line, tied the contest at five, MacArthur took their final lead of the first half at 7-5. Since it worked earlier in the quarter, the Railers found freshman Gavin Block in the same spot as Van Hook with the result the same, tying the game at seven. Block's basket started a 9-0 run pushing the Railer lead to 14-7. The run included a jumper from Max Cook as well as an offensive rebound from the sophomore and was finished off by an old fashioned three-point play by Van Hook. Offensively, it seemed the ship had finally set sail in calm waters. MacArthur (10-16) answered back with five in a row to cut the lead to two. Lincoln stretched their lead back to four when Block found a wide-open Edward Bowlby for a lay-in.

Seeing the seven-point lead shaved down to four at the half, at 16-12, it was giving credence to a point that is brought up frequently by my radio broadcast partners Tom Larey and Josh Komnick. Both have mentioned the dangers of letting a team hang around, giving them confidence and belief they could actually win the game. Well, the start of the second half belonged to MacArthur, and there was no question they belonged in the game. After getting the first basket of the quarter, MacArthur was able to continue their comeback, turning a Lincoln turnover into a quick basket to tie the game at 16.


On Lincoln's next possession, frustration abounded. When Austin Kirby's pass was stolen, the senior set up at half-court and fouled MacArthur's Deondre Coleman with a solid shoulder block. The foul was immediately called and whistled as an intentional foul. After Coleman made both free throws, the Generals were awarded the ball and stretched their lead when Reggie Anderson made all three free throws after being fouled on a shot by Will Podbelsek. On the next trip, MacArthur continued their streaky shooting when Jatavious Lee sank a 3-pointer, and Lincoln's four-point halftime lead quickly turned into an eight-point deficit, at 24-16.

As has happened in the latter stages of the season, Lincoln turned to the seniors in order to get back into the game. A drive by Van Hook was followed by Gesner hitting both free throws to cut the lead to four. It was during this segment of the game that the Railers' defense could not find a way to stop MacArthur. After another 3 from the Generals, a Cook spin in the lane resulted in a three-point play opportunity, but missing the free throw left the Railers down 27-22. By the end of the third, Lincoln was down 29-24, and for one team, the season had only eight minutes left.

It seemed improbable to believe it would be the Railers.

It probably seemed hard to believe that through the first three quarters, Lincoln had not yet made a 3-pointer. That was quickly remedied by Van Hook, who connected from the left corner to bring the Railers within two. Again, the defense could not find a way to stop MacArthur as Van Hook's 3 was answered by four from the Generals. Down six, the Railers were about to make their final run of the game and of the season.

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Van Hook hit from about the same spot for his second 3 to cut the deficit to three. After a Lincoln timeout, the Railers ran the perfect play for that point of the game. Because Van Hook had starting hitting from the corner, Lincoln ran the same play. However, instead of getting the ball to Van Hook in the corner, the screener Gesner cut to the basket, took the pass and laid it in. On the next possession, Block was fouled. After hitting the first free throw, Lincoln had drawn back even at the 4:38 mark. Unfortunately, he couldn't convert on the second one and the game was knotted at 33.

It was as though the season ended right there. MacArthur was able to outscore the Railers 12-2 the rest of the way. While MacArthur was converting on jumpers and free throws, Lincoln's shots were spinning off the rim, coming up short, or missing but falling in the hands of the only players ready to rebound. And those players were all dressed in blue. Lincoln's final basket of the season came from Gesner as the Railers cut the deficit to 40-35. Gesner was unable to hit the associated free throw, and Lincoln was forced to foul and watch the Generals convert from the free-throw line to pull out the 10-point win.

So, that's it. An abrupt end to a very unusual season. For a team that started 6-10, you would think getting to a regional final would be out of the question. But as this team started gelling and playing defense like Lincoln teams are known to, things started turning around. However, in the end, issues that this team has had throughout the season reared their ugly head and it was too much to overcome as the Lincoln season came to an end on Friday night.

The Railers were led by 18 points from Van Hook, the only Railer in double figures. Gesner finished with six points as did Cook. Block added three points, while Bowlby scored two.

So, this is where I usually remind Railer Nation when the next contest is. Sorry to say, it won't be until the Monday before Thanksgiving. It will go fast. Trust me, this season went fast, too fast.

In the next week or so, look for the follow-up to the season, including stats and other items of interest from the Railer season. For now, thanks to all those who listened to the broadcasts and followed the Railers on Lincoln Daily News. I've had fun being there and hope you've enjoyed my thoughts on the season.



Van Hook 6 4-5 18, Gesner 2 2-3 6, Cook 3 0-1 6, Block 1 1-2 3, Bowlby 1 0-0 2, Podbelsek 0 0-0 0, Kirby 0 0-0 0, Olson 0 0-0 0, Hays 0 0-0 0. Team 13 7-11 35. 3-point field goals 2 (Van Hook 2).


Anderson 5 5-5 17, Coleman 3 2-3 8, Adams 3 2-3 8, Lee 2 0-0 6, Bartley 0 3-4 3, Allyn 1 1-2 3. Team 14 13-17 45. 3-point field goals 4 (Anderson 2, Lee 2).

Scoring by quarters:

LCHS         3-13-8-11 35
MacArthur  5-7-17-16 45


Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles

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