So, how does a young, inexperienced team respond? Very well, I'd
On Saturday evening, Lincoln fought off Champaign Centennial
53-48. That game followed a heart-stopping triple-overtime match
against Danville to start the Saturday session, one the Railers
pulled out 53-52. With the two wins on Saturday, Lincoln finished
the tournament in second place with a record of 4-1, losing only to
tournament champion Cahokia.
"I'm really proud off how these guys worked this week," coach
Neil Alexander praised, "especially with all the adjustments that
had to be made because of Joey. Now we just have to build on it."
The evening contest was a battle for second place with the
Chargers, and it seemed the Railers tried to take a page from
Cahokia. Earlier in the week, the Comanches jumped on top of
Centennial 30-0 to start their contest. Lincoln didn't duplicate
that but shot 75 percent in the first quarter to lead 23-10 after
one. Lincoln used four straight 3-pointers to go on an 18-4 run to
start the contest.
After Will Podbelsek connected on a pair of free throws to start
the second to give Lincoln their largest lead of the night at 15,
Centennial calmed down and started to show why they will be one of
the tougher teams in the Big 12. An 8-2 run cut the Railer lead to
nine at 27-18, but the Railers continued to answer as Podbelsek
drove the baseline, making a bounce pass from an almost impossible
angle to Gavin Block in the corner, who connected for his first 3 of
Lincoln enjoyed a nine-point lead at the half, but Centennial
coach Tim Lavin found the right mix and Centennial continued to
climb closer, getting back to within two by the end of the third
quarter at 38-36. Helping the cause for Centennial was the lack of
Lincoln offense in the period, with the Railers scoring only one
basket and two free throws in the third.
Podbelsek, who led the way with 15 points, came up big again, as
he started the Lincoln scoring with a 3-pointer. After Centennial
answered from long range, the Railers went on the run that would
ultimately decide the game. Edward Bowlby, Lincoln's most consistent
player during the week, hit a high-arcing 3 to start a 9-2 run. The
junior had six of his 13 points in the fourth quarter. With Lincoln
up 53-44, the Chargers were able to score a couple of easy baskets,
but it was well after the game had been decided, and the Railers
came away with the five-point victory.
Aside from the combined 28 points from Podbelsek and Bowlby,
Lincoln got nine points each from Block and Max Cook. Tyler Horchem
added five while Austin Krusz scored two.
As for the early game on Saturday, coach Alexander has always
said, "The team that wins the 10 o'clock game on a Saturday is the
team that wants it more."
Now, that may be true, but it certainly took long enough to find
out who that team was.
Bowlby's lay-in off the glass with 17 seconds left in the third
extra session gave Lincoln a 53-52 heart-stopper over Danville.
Although that was the game-winner, the biggest shot of the morning
came from Cook, who hit a 3 from well into NBA range, from the top
of the key, as the horn sounded at the end of the first overtime to
tie the game at 48 and send us into more free basketball. Neither
team scored in the second overtime, as Danville won the tip and
attempted to hold the ball but could not get on top.
Danville's Denzel Smith hit one of two free throws with 39
seconds left to take the 52-51 lead over the Railers and, after
Bowlby put Lincoln back on top, Danville was able to fire off a 3
that bounced high, allowing the bigs under the basket to get one
final tip try. Shades of the Morton game, the Railers survived.
The contest was initially sent into overtime as Block scored on a
layup with 45 seconds left.
Of course, both coaches may have told you that it should have
never gotten that far.
Up 14-13 early in the second, the Railers went on a 12-3 spurt,
the first eight coming from Cook. Everything that gone right up to
that point for Railers, flipped and started going wrong. Whether it
was inside or outside, the Vikings could do no wrong. Finally, at
the 4:18 mark of the third quarter, a basket from Bowlby ended a
15-0 run from Danville as the Railers cut the game to 31-28.
[to top of second column]
An early score from Danville to start the fourth pushed their
advantage to 39-31. After Block sank a pair of free throws, Horchem
came up big again as he converted a four-point play at the 5:14 mark
to pull the Railers to within two. Lincoln was able to grab the lead
back at 43-42 with 2:07 to go in regulation as Bowlby hit the second
of two straight 3s. Marcus Merriweather's 3 put Danville back on
top, setting the excitement to come over the rest of regulation and
three extra sessions.
The Saturday morning contest was the first without Olden, and
coach Alexander noted his absence was felt.
"We certainly struggled without Joey out there. Both offensively
and defensively, he's such a big part of our team." Alexander said.
"But, now, we just have look at our rotations and wait for him to
In the first game, the Railers were led by a trio in double
figures as Cook finished with 15, Bowlby had 13, and Block added 12.
Horchem scored eight, with Podbelsek adding three and Adam Conrady
getting his first two of the year.
Whew! Now things can get back to normal as the Railers are back
in action on Friday night, when they travel down to Taylorville to
open the CS8 season. It is a Tornado squad that is playing well to
start the season and is hoping their conference losing streak of
80-plus games will end this year. The Railers certainly do not want
to be the team to end the streak. A good turnout by the Railer
Nation would be appreciated down in Christian County this Friday.
The final standings for the tournament look this way: Cahokia
5-0, Lincoln 4-1, Centennial 3-2, Seton Academy 2-3, Danville 1-4
and Morton 0-5. The all-tournament team had only one Railer, Max
Cook. The champions, Cahokia, had three representatives (Darius
Austin, Keenan Minor, and Carleton Rivers), with two from Seton
Academy (Kamal Shasi and Mark Weems), along with one each from
Danville (Denzel Smith), and Centennial (Mark Finke). Finke was the
attention-getter of Illinois coach John Groce, who was in attendance
Cook 6 0-0 15, Bowlby 5 0-0 13, Block 3 6-7 12, Horchem 2 3-3 8,
Podbelsek 1 0-0 3, Conrady 1 0-0 2, Dunovksy 0 0-0 0, Krusz 0 0-0 0.
Team 18 9-10 53.
3-point field goals 8 (Cook 3, Bowlby 3, Podbelsek, Horchem).
Smith 13, Merriweather 13, Butler 8, Hutcherson 5, Carter 5,
Williams 3, McGuire 3, Watson 2. Team 20 4-8 52.
3-point field goals 8 (Merriweather 3, Butler 2, Williams, Smith,
Scoring by quarters:
LCHS 12-14-5-14-6-0-2 53
DHS 11-12-14-8-6-0-1 52
Podbelsek 5 2-2 15, Bowlby 4 3-4 13, Cook 4 0-1 9, Block 3 2-2 9,
Horchem 2 0-0 5, Krusz 1 0-0 2, Dunovsky 0 0-0 0. TEAM 19 7-9 53.
3-point field goals 8 (Podbelsek 3, Bowlby 2, Cook, Horchem, Block).
Finke 7 0-2 14, Wright 5 1-1 11, McCray 3 4-4 11, Byrd 3 0-0 8,
Vaughn 1 2-2 4. TEAM 19 7-9 48. 3-pont field goals 3 (Byrd 2,
Scoring by quarters:
LCHS 23-11-4-15 53
CCHS 10-15-11-12 48
[By JEFF BENJAMIN]
Benjamin's Railer basketball articles