Using a 29-3 run during a furious comeback from down 16 points, the
Railers captured a share of the Central State Eight title with a
48-39 win over the Lanphier Lions. The win, coupled with a Southeast
win over Glenwood, left the Spartans and Railers tied atop the
conference with 14-2 marks. However, at halftime, things were not
looking quite as good.
"As you can imagine, halftime was not a fun
time," the victorious Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said after the
game. "I said my piece, but give credit to our assistants. They kept
the guys' heads in it. I can't tell you how elated I am at the
effort we gave tonight to get this win."
That halftime issue? The Railers (26-4) were down 32-18, and when
Lanphier scored the first basket of the second half, the 16-point
deficit was the largest amount by which Lincoln had trailed all
season. But it was defense, defense and more defense that forced the
Lions out of what had gotten them to the lead.
The physical battle, which is now on the list with other classic
Lincoln-Lanphier games, was all Lanphier in the first half. Combine
Lincoln getting good looks at the basket but being unable to convert
with Lanphier's speed, quickness and hot shooting, and you would
find Lincoln trailing by 10 at the end of the first quarter.
It didn't take long for the verbal sparring to begin. With
Lanphier up 5-2 at the 5:00 mark, Lincoln's Max Cook drove the lane,
scored the basket and was fouled. After the basket, Cook's
enthusiasm was interpreted by the official as taunting and the
junior was hit with a technical. Cook hit the free throw to tie the
game at 5, but Lanphier freshman Xavier Bishop hit the free throws.
Those shots started an 8-0 run for the Lions to go up 13-5.
The Lions' defense in the first quarter was smothering. It seemed
there were two and three Lanphier players around the ball with each
pass, but those shot attempts we are used to seeing drop through
just would not go down. Lincoln made only three of their 10
first-quarter shots, including coming up empty on their five
Starting the second quarter down 17-7, the Railers tried to come
back as Cook hit a jumper to pull Lincoln closer. A 3 from Lanphier
was answered by a 3 from Cook, who scored 10 of Lincoln's first 12
points. A free throw and 3-pointer from Gavin Block got Lincoln
within six at 22-16 and the pace of the game seemed to be settling
down, back to a pace that is more Lincoln's style.
However, it was another run from the Lions, this one a 7-0 run,
that pushed the Railers down 29-16. The run was fueled by Lanphier's
highly touted guard Larry Austin Jr., whose ability to work in the
lane was beating Lincoln, either by his shooting or finding
teammates for easy shots near the basket.
The final two points of that run came on a dunk from Dwight
Bolden. This time, it was Bolden's expressions with about a minute
and half left in the second quarter that earned him a technical
foul. Block hit both free throws, but Lanphier was able to finish
off a solid first half as Bishop hit his third 3 of the night from
the right wing, giving the Lions a 14-point cushion going into the
The shooting woes of the first half had the Railers hitting only
6 of 19 shots, while Lanphier made 12 of their 22 attempts. When
Lanphier scored to start the second half, the 34-18 score looked
like it might be a bit much for the Railers to recover from. I guess
the guys in green didn't get that memo.
Block got the comeback started with a strong move down the lane
and was fouled. Although he missed the free throw, it showed that
this Railer team was not going to be intimidated and that the lane
may be the place to be if a comeback was in the cards. Cook hit two
baskets in a row as the lead was cut to 10. Edward Bowlby was heard
from for the first time as he hit a 3 to pull Lincoln to within
For just a moment, Lanphier (15-11) was able to stem Lincoln's
run by scoring a basket, only to see senior Will Podbelsek score on
a baseline drive followed by another 3 from Bowlby. And, it was
Bowlby one more time, getting one off the glass from the baseline to
amazingly bring Lincoln back to down just two as time expired at the
end of the third quarter.
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The full-throttle explosion continued to start the fourth as
Bowlby scored again, this one at the 7:05 mark to tie the game at
36, something that may have seemed impossible early in the second
All the drama and intrigue had set the stage for the unlikeliest
of heroes in the most unexpected manner. With 5:28 left on the
Lober-Nika Gymnasium clock, junior Joey Olden, without hesitation,
drained a 3-pointer to give the Railers their first lead of the
night at 39-36. Well, if one is good, then two must be better, and
Olden delivered a second from long range to stretch the Lincoln lead
"I'm so happy for Joey. With what he's been through this year,"
Alexander said, "he really stepped up big when we needed it."
Bowlby continued his second-half run with another basket as the
Lions looked for any answer as to what had happened. What happened??
The Railers had just finished off a 26-2 run with Bowlby scoring 12
of his points over a 20-point span.
After a Lion free throw, it was to the free-throw line for
Lincoln, and the Railers converted 4 of 7 attempts to close out one
of the more exciting games in quite a while, a 48-39 win.
The shooting difficulties seemed to hover around the same basket
as Lanphier struggled at the same goal as Lincoln had in the first
half. The Lions shot a dismal 15 percent (3 of 20) in the second
half, while Lincoln unpacked their shooting eye at halftime,
connecting on 11 of 18 shots in the second half.
It was a comeback we'll be talking about for a long time, and
this could be the type of contest that helps this team believe there
is nothing they can't do. And with regionals beginning next week,
there is no better time to think anything is possible.
Only five Railers hit the scorebook Friday night as Cook led the
way with 17 points, with Bowlby joining him in double figures with
12. Block finished with eight as well as leading the team with nine
rebounds and took at least four charges on the night. Olden stepped
up with a big seven points, and Podbelsek scored four.
"I'm really, really proud of how they played ... not just one
guy, but all of them," Alexander said.
Now the attention turns to tournament play. One and done. It all
starts Tuesday night at Bloomington High School as the Railers will
take on either Bloomington Central Catholic or Decatur Eisenhower.
Lincoln will play the winner of Monday's contest at 7:30 Tuesday
night. A win would put them in Friday night's regional final, but
one at a time.
The sophomores, as usual, got the night off to the right start
with a 54-46 win.
A quick note of good wishes. I would hope all Railer Nation and
LDN readers would keep big Railer fan Joel Vinson in their thoughts.
Vinson underwent emergency surgery on Friday but communicated that
he was out of recovery and doing well. To be honest, after I
received word that he was out of recovery was just about the time
the Railers started on their run in the second half. Man, Railer
fans will do just about anything to help support their team. In all
seriousness, get well soon, Joel.
Cook 6-11 4-5 17, Bowlby 5-10 0-0 12, Block 2-5 3-6 8, Olden 2-3
1-2 7, Podbelsek 2-5 0-0 4, Horchem 0-3 0-0 0, Krusz 0-0 0-0 0. Team
17-37 8-13 48. 3-point field goals 6-18 (Olden 2-2, Bowlby 2-6,
Block 1-2, Cook 1-4, Podbelsek 0-1, Horchem 0-3). Rebounds 19 (Block
Bishop 11, Tribbet 7, Austin 6, Bolden 5, Millican 4, Smith 4,
Roberts 2. Team 15 3-5 39. 3-point field goals 6 (Bishop 3,Tribbet
2, Bolden). Rebounds 35.
Scoring by quarters:
Lincoln 7-11-16-14 48
Lanphier 17-15-4-3 39
[By JEFF BENJAMIN]
Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles