Saturday, December 21, 2013
Sports News

Railers remain perfect heading into the holiday classic

By Jeff Benjamin

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[December 21, 2013]  Even with the two-week, weather-induced layoff, the Lincoln Railers used a couple of recognizable and reliable weapons, defense and clutch free throw shooting, to come away with a 40-31 victory on Friday night over Springfield Southeast in Central State Eight conference play at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium. It was a game that really never found a good rhythm, but in the end, the Railers remain perfect heading into the Christmas holiday.

After the Spartans pulled to within one point to begin the fourth quarter, Lincoln (7-0, 2-0) used a 12-0 run, powered by six forced turnovers and two missed shots in a four-minute span of the period, to get the win. For the game, the Railer defense forced a total of 24 turnovers, holding Southeast without a 3-pointer on the night.

Senior Joey Olden was key to the defensive effort as well as scoring eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter. Olden shared the game's scoring honors with Gavin Block as the two were the only Railers in double figures. The pair combined to hit all six of their free throws in the fourth, part of an 8-for-8 performance at the charity stripe, all points that were critical in the low-scoring affair.

After both games last weekend were postponed due to the wintry weather, the Railers were able to get back to business. The worry in a situation like this is how the team will respond to the game inactivity

Early on, things were looking rather good for the Railers as they jumped out to an early 13-4 lead. Block scored five of his 10 points in the first quarter, including Lincoln's first points on an offensive rebound, from following his own shot. The quick start included 3s from Tyler Horchem and Edward Bowlby as Southeast seemed to struggle with the matchup zone they employed at the outset of the contest.

The Spartans (4-4, 2-2) were able to hang in despite the turnovers, missed shots and inability to get the ball to their 6-9 SIU-E recruit, Jalen Henry. Coach Lawrence Thomas also did not have the services of D'Angelo Hughes, out with a groin injury. Missed shots and unusually sloppy ballhandling from the Railers allowed Southeast to creep back into the game with seven points in a row of their own as the score was trimmed to 13-11 with the Railers holding on to a slim two-point advantage.

Lincoln's only two baskets in the second quarter came on shots from the paint by Olden and Max Cook. The Railers found the 3-point shot ineffective on the night, hitting just three of their 21 attempts from behind the arc. The continued offensive struggles in the second quarter allowed the Spartans to pull even at the half, with the teams going to intermission tied at 17.

Whether it was the two-week layoff, the weather outside or the sloppy play, a subdued crowd at Roy S. Anderson watched as Southeast scored the first points of the second half to grab their first lead of the night at 19-17. A basket from Cook knotted the game at 19, and Block's first scoring since the first half put Lincoln back up at 21-19.

The Railers missed a golden opportunity to take advantage of a key defensive play, a sequence that could have backfired. After a steal found Block all alone on a breakaway, as the junior approached the basket, he kicked the ball back out to Cook. Cook took the ball to the basket on a drive, missing the shot but getting fouled. A sense of frustration seemed to be apparent as both teammates and coaches alike thought Block should have gone to the basket. Momentum seemed headed back to Southeast as Cook missed both free throws and the Spartans came down to even the game at 21.

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Block and Cook split pairs of free throws to put Lincoln back up by two, and Bowlby, on a nice feed from Cook, hit Lincoln's last 3 of the game at the 2:40 mark of the third to get the crowd back in it and put the Railers up by five at 26-21. However, give Southeast credit, as they would not go away, scoring the last four points of the quarter to send the contest to the fourth with Lincoln up 26-25.

After a couple of Block free throws and a Southeast basket kept the game at a single-digit spread, Lincoln turned up the defense, and the two-week layoff may have given the Railers just enough reserve energy to force one turnover after another. Olden's free throws started the spurt, and then the senior's steal at the 5:13 mark led to a basket from Cook. Olden and Bowlby each hit two free throws. Olden's defense was continually rewarded as he scored on a layup after a takeaway by Payton Ebelherr and on a layup on a backdoor pass by Block. At times, Southeast must have thought there were more than the allowed five Railers on the court.

With Block and Olden leading the way with 10 points each, Cook added nine while Bowlby scored eight. Horchem had the only other points for Lincoln with a 3-pointer.

The Railers will not have to wait as long for their next matchup as they will be heading down to Collinsville the day after Christmas for day one of the Collinsville Holiday Classic. The Railers were given the No. 1 seed and will face Granite City at 1 p.m. Thursday.



Block 3 4-6 10, Olden 3 4-4 10, M.Cook 3 3-6 9, Bowlby 2 2-2 8, Horcehm 1 0-0 3, Perry 0 0-0 0, W.Cook 0 0-0 0, Ebelherr 0 0-0 0, Dunovsky 0 0-0 0, Krusz 0 0-0 0, Conrady 0 0-0 0. Team 12 13-18 40. 3-point field goals 3 (Bowlby 2, Horchem).


Hill 12, Williams 6, Henry 5, Bakari 4, Martin 2, Devoe 2. Team 12 7-11 31. 3-point field goals 0.

Lincoln       13-4-9-14  40
Southeast     7-10-8-6  31


Other notes:

  • The game postponed from Dec. 13 at Chatham will be made up Tuesday, Feb. 11, at 7:30 p.m. The game postponed from Dec. 14 versus Jacksonville has been rescheduled for Saturday, Jan. 11, at 6:30 p.m.

  • Congratulations to Austin Krusz and Joey Olden, as both were recently named Illinois State Scholars.


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