Saturday, February 09, 2013
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Railers fly past the Rockets for an easy win

By Jeff Benjamin

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[February 09, 2013]  Taking the floor for the first time since being awarded the No. 1 seed at the upcoming Bloomington Regional of the Class 3A playoffs, the Lincoln Railers wanted to make sure the top billing did not go to their heads and allow Rochester to be an obstacle on the way to staying atop the Central State Eight.

Scoring seven points in the first 48 seconds, all off Rochester turnovers, the Railers never looked back en route to an easy 71-32 win over the visiting Rockets. The win improved Lincoln's record to 22-4 and allowed them to stay knotted at the top of the conference with a mark of 12-2.

Last month, Rochester was able to give the Railers fits during the first half of their Saturday morning matchup at the County Market Winter Classic. The Rockets stayed close, thanks to good shooting and better rebounding, harassing the Railers to only a seven-point lead at intermission. Junior Matt Swaine proved to be the difference as his 20 points exposed the Railer inside game. Friday night, the "D" led the way.

Jumping out to an early 13-0 advantage, pushed by smothering defense and accurate shooting, the Railers gave no ground to a Rocket team that had scored only one win in conference play. Easy baskets from Edward Bowlby and Gavin Block got the scoring started. It was the fifth time in the last six games that Bowlby had put Lincoln's first points on the board. A 3-point onslaught followed from Max Cook and Will Podbelsek, with Cook's 3 making it 7-0, followed by a pair from long range from the senior. Finally, at the 3:17 mark, the Rockets were able to get on the board.

With the defense playing at such an intense level to begin the contest, it was natural to think there would be a bit of an emotional letdown. After a 10-foot jumper from Austin Krusz stretched the lead to 17-4, the Rockets scored five in a row to cut the deficit back under double figures at 17-9. The 17-4 run by the Railers to start the game was nothing compared with the next run the home team would put together.

A jump shot from Adam Conrady just inside the free-throw lane put Lincoln up 19-9 early in the second quarter. After a Rochester free throw, junior Tyler Horchem took over. Horchem, who leads the team with 59 3-pointers on the season, broke out his inside-the-arc game. Making only 14 two-pointers all year, Horchem is not the typical take-it-to-the-basket kind of player. Against the Rockets, whether it was driving to the basket or getting nice backdoor passes on cuts to the hoop, Horchem converted his opportunities to the tune of seven points in the second to boost the lead to 28-10.

The Rockets tried to keep it close, but when you have almost as many turnovers as you do points for the game, it's going to be hard to win. Down 28-12, Rochester watched as Cook and Podbelsek connected again from behind the arc, followed by another jumper from Conrady. The Railers' hot shooting in the first half continued, and it seemed fitting that the first half ended with Podbelsek draining his fourth 3 of the night at the buzzer, sending the teams into the half with Lincoln up 39-14.

The domination continued as the third quarter started, thanks to a 3 from Cook and a basket from Horchem. The two then teamed up on an alley-oop as Cook scored on the lob after the nice pass from Horchem. Not wanting to feel left out, Block and Bowlby each stepped up to hit 3s, and another quick start in the quarter had pushed the margin to 38 at 52-14. When Rochester finally scored, it stopped the Lincoln run at a staggering 33-4 over the course of the second and third quarters. It was also at this point that Lincoln coach Neil Alexander gestured to call off the press.

The next 3 from Cook allowed the junior to reach a milestone by passing the 500-point mark in his Railer career. Lincoln got to their largest lead of the night after Block completed the old-fashioned three-point play after a nice finger-roll layup at 58-16.

The Rockets were able to put together a quick 5-0 burst, but that was ended by the fifth 3 of the night from Podbelsek. His 15 points led the way for the Railers. The fourth quarter was a chance for the regulars to get some much-needed rest while the reserves gained some valuable court time. It seemed from the first minute on in this one, Lincoln would not be denied in proving a point. It's a point coach Alexander is hoping to continue once regional play arrives.

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"Well, it's (the No. 1 seed) what we wanted," Alexander said. "Now we just have to go out and prove it, that we deserve it."

Lincoln again showed off its balanced scoring, with 10 players getting in the scorebook. Podbelsek's 15-point total was joined by Max Cook's 14 points. The only two Railers in double figures were helped by Horchem and Bowlby scoring nine, and Block finished with eight. Krusz, who played one of his best all-around games of the season, tied his career high with six, while Conrady scored five. Joey Olden and Will Cook each pitched in two, while freshman Aron Hopp split a pair of free throws for his first varsity point.

The Railers, as has been the case for much of the season, got the night off to a good start with the sophomores handling their duties, getting a 52-22 win in the opener.

The attention now turns to a nonconference battle on Saturday as Glenbrook South makes the trip downstate to take on the Railers. As has been the schedule for most Saturday games, the varsity will tip at 6:30 p.m., with the sophomores getting started at 5 p.m. It will also be eighth-grade night, as those who will matriculate at the high school next year will be recognized.

Other scores from the CS8 on Friday night: Southeast 77-53 over Taylorville; Jacksonville needed double overtime to down SHG 71-66; and Glenwood squeaked by Springfield 46-40.



Podbelsek 5 0-0 15, MCook 5 0-0 14, Horchem 4 1-2 9, Bowlby 4 0-0 9, Block 3 1-1 8, Krusz 3 0-0 6, Conrady 2 1-2 5, Olden 0 2-2 2, WCook 1 0-0 2, Hopp 0 1-2 1, Perry 0 0-0 0, Ebelherr 0 0-0 0, Dunovsky 0 0-1 0. Team 27 6-10 71. 3-point field goals 11 (Podbelsek 5, MCook 4, Block, Bowlby).


Ross 9, Fisher 7, Neal 5, Zeigler 4, Swaine 3, Dowlis 3, Sembell 1. Team 12 4-11 32. 3-point field goals 4 (Fisher 2, Dowlis, Neal).

Scoring by quarters:

LCHS  17-22-23-9 71
Rochester 8-6-10-8 32


Bloomington Regional schedule

Monday, Feb. 25, 7:30 p.m.
No. 4 Bloomington Central Catholic vs. No. 5 Decatur Eisenhower

Tuesday, Feb. 26, 7:30 p.m.
No. 1 LINCOLN vs. Bloomington CC/Decatur Eisenhower winner

Wednesday, Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m.
No. 2 Normal U-High vs. No. 3 Bloomington

Friday, March 1, 7:30 p.m.
Regional championship


Railer-related information:

Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles

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