Saturday, November 24, 2012
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Railers sting Seton Academy

By Jeff Benjamin

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[November 24, 2012]  Coaches like Lincoln's Neil Alexander don't get to 500 wins at one school without having the ability to know on any given night which reserves will be able to make the biggest impact on the game. Friday night was no exception as the Hall of Fame coach reached 500 wins at Lincoln, thanks to key contributions from his bench, on his way to leading the Railers to a 61-51 win over Seton Academy. Unfortunately, he may have to reach a little more into his bench than expected.

After the game, on the minds of the Railers and their fans was the condition of junior Joey Olden, who left the game early in the fourth quarter with an apparent serious hand injury. Olden, whose layup at the 5:47 mark put the Railers up 43-35, lost his balance on the drive and landed awkwardly on his left hand. Olden immediately grabbed at the hand as he was on his back, lying up against the wall under the Railer basket for a couple of minutes. Once to his feet, Olden, who scored a career-high eight points, went straight to the end of bench and began applying ice to the hand.

"He's supposed to get it X-rayed and let me know tonight," Alexander said. "At this point we have to prepare like he's not going to be available tomorrow (Saturday)."

The Olden injury was a negative during an otherwise positive performance from the Railer squad that improved to 2-1 on the season and put themselves in a position to still challenge for the title of this year's Eaton Electrical Round Robin Tournament.

The Railers were led by Edward Bowlby's 14 points, but it was contributions from reserves Tyler
Horchem (12 points) and Bobby Dunovsky (seven), that helped Lincoln stay close to the Sting while dealing with early foul trouble from Olden and Will Podbelsek. It was Podbelsek who got a chance to put Lincoln up before any time had run off the clock after Seton Academy was assessed a technical foul for dunking during warm-ups. Once again, the free throw struggles continued, as the senior missed both shots.

The most important play of the game may have been a turnover. When Gavin Block passed the ball in the backcourt to Max Cook in the first minute of the game, the ball went right through Cook's hands and out of bounds. Coach Alexander was quick to send a message to his junior guard by inserting Horchem into the contest.

"Max is our point guard and they usually get blamed for everything," Alexander explained. "But you've got to be ready to play and ... sometimes you need to get a boost in the backside to get back on track."

See, this is how you get to the level of coach Alexander. When Cook returned to the lineup after Podbelsek had picked up his second foul, his intensity had increased.

Seton jumped out to a 12-8 lead after Christopher Seaton hit his fourth 3 of the quarter. Lincoln put together an 8-0 run on 3s from Horchem and Bowlby and a basket from Block. Bowlby ended the Railer scoring in the first quarter on a reverse lay-in where he used the rim to protect himself, pushing the lead to 18-15. A late basket from the Sting cut the lead to one to end the period.

The first batch of unexpected scoring came in the early stages of the second quarter. With Dunovsky
and Austin Krusz on the floor, replacing Olden and Bowlby, Dunovsky hit two 3s in a row to put Lincoln ahead 24-22. The Railers had a chance to add more after the second one, when Block was fouled while setting a screen to free Dunovsky, but could not capitalize. Cook was finally able to hit the scoring column with a nice up-and-under move in the lane to give the Railers a 26-22 advantage. After Seton scored five in a row to take back the lead, Block's two free throws gave Lincoln the halftime lead of 28-27.

The Sting continued their 9-2 run to jump out to a 32-28 lead to start the third quarter. If the fans were waiting for the Railers to finally lose sight of the Sting, the crowd would be disappointed as the spunky bunch of Railers kept hanging tough. A basket from Cook followed by an Olden free throw brought the Railers to within one, and after an offensive rebound from Block, Cook drained a 3 to put Lincoln back up 34-32. The scoring was all part of a 15-3 run that stretched into the fourth quarter, including a pair of free throws from Block that gave Lincoln the lead 36-35 at the end of the third as well as for good, as the Sting would not enjoy the lead for the rest of the night.

The offensive output continued in the fourth on a drive from Olden and big 3 from Bowlby. Lincoln's next score, another driving layup from Olden, thanks to a back-door pass from Block, extended the lead to 43-35, but may have also altered Lincoln's season due to the injury suffered by Olden on the play.

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The teams traded scoring, and when Bowlby converted on a traditional three-point play, the Railers enjoyed their first double-digit lead at 50-40.

As much as has been made about the Lincoln free-throw shooting -- just 41 percent over the first two games -- the Sting had their own issues on Friday. Going just 11 of 19, Seton converted on only three free throws during the stretch, getting to within 50-43. Bowlby's basket put the lead back to nine at 52-43 and was Lincoln's final field goal of the game. The final nine points came from the free-throw line as the Railers missed only three of their final shots from the charity stripe to secure the win at 61-51.

With the win, the Railers pulled even with Centennial and Seton at 2-1, trailing only Cahokia at 3-0. If things break right on Saturday, Lincoln still has a chance to get the title. However, it may be free throw shooting that bites them again. If there is a tie, the champion is determined by best free throw percentage. First things first, though, as there are no guarantees in games against Danville and Champaign Centennial.

It was good night of balance in the scoring column with three Railers -- Bowlby (14), Horchem (12) and Cook (12) -- in double figures. Olden added eight before his injury, with Dunovsky's seven and Block's six points adding to the balance, and Podbelsek scoring two.

The other games on Friday night saw Centennial down Morton 47-35, and Cahokia got by Danville 72-50.

Lots of action on Saturday at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium, with Lincoln starting at 10 a.m. against Danville, followed by Morton taking on Cahokia and Seton facing off against Centennial. The night session starts with Danville going up against Morton, Cahokia battling Seton, and the Railers finishing off the tournament against Centennial at 8 p.m.



Bowlby 5 2-3 14, Cook 3 5-6 12, Horchem 3 3-4 12, Olden 3 1-2 8, Dunovsky 2 1-2 7, Block 1 4-5 6, Podbelsek 1 0-2 2, Krusz 0 0-0 0. Team 18 16-24 61.
3-point field goals 9 (Horchem 3, Bowlby 2, Dunovsky 2, Cook, Olden).


Seaton 15, Shasi 14, Weems 9, Harrison 4, Payton 3, Mooring 2, Clemons 1, D.Evans 1, E. Evans 1, Foster. Team 16 11-19 51.
3-point field goals 8 (Seaton 5, Payton, Weems, Shasi).

Scoring by quarters:

LCHS 18-10-8-25  61
Seton Aca 17-10-8-16  51


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