Let's turn back the clock to last season's IHSA sectional final in
Lincoln. Due to a misunderstanding, Lanphier did not bring the
correct uniforms to wear for the matchup. The solution: The Lions
wore the green road uniforms of the Railers en route to the win that
sent them to a supersectional. Last night, the right team was
wearing the Lincoln uniforms as the Railers knocked off the
eighth-ranked Lions 49-39 to stay near the top of the Central State
In what was one of the best games of the year, junior Max
Cook outplayed Lanphier's Larry Austin Jr., leading his squad to the
10-point victory. Cook's 16 points, including 10 in the second half,
helped Lincoln improve its record to 13-3, 4-1 in the CS8. The
Lincoln defense, focused on the highly regarded recruit from
Lanphier, held Austin without a field goal after the first quarter.
After the Lions jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, Cook scored the
next four to put Lincoln up and begin the evening's back-and-forth
affair. Senior Will Podbelsek followed with a 3 to extend the Railer
lead. Lanphier knotted the game at seven, only to have Podbelsek
strike again from long range to give the advantage back to the
Railers at 10-7. A basket from Edward Bowlby ended the first-quarter
scoring for the Railers, but Austin put an exclamation point on a
well-played first quarter as he hit from right in front of the
Railer bench to tie the game at 12.
In what would be a game of runs, Lanphier scored first in the
second quarter to take a 14-12 lead. It was Cook again connecting on
a drive to tie the game at 14. The junior seemed completely
unaffected by being defended by one of the top defenders in the
state in Austin.
The Railers knew a passive plan would not prove successful.
"We knew we had to be aggressive, take the ball at them," Lincoln
coach Neil Alexander said. "Austin is a good, good player out there,
but you've got to be able to play on both ends of the court. Max
played really well tonight against him."
A Lanphier (10-6, 4-3) basket again gave the lead to the Lions,
only to have the Railers score six in a row on buckets from Gavin
Block and Bowlby and 2 of 3 free throws after Block was bowled over
shooting a 3-pointer. The pendulum swung back to the Lions as they
went on a 7-2 run to end the half, including a basket from Eddie
Smith as time expired, giving Lanphier the halftime lead at 23-22.
Smith led the Lions with 15 points on the night.
As had seemingly been the case all night, Cook got the scoring
started again for the Railers as his basket put Lincoln up 24-23.
The Lanphier pressure defense and up-tempo style started giving
Lincoln trouble at the beginning of the third quarter. A quick 5-0
run gave Lanphier their largest lead of the night, up 28-24.
The Railers connected for only five 3-pointers in the game, three
in the second half, but all of them came consecutively as the
Railers charged back ahead. Cook's only 3 of the night drew Lincoln
closer, while Tyler Horchem's first of two 3s on the evening put
Lincoln up 30-28. At the 4:51 mark of the third, Cook picked up his
third foul, while less than a minute later, Block mimicked his
teammate in foul trouble. Horchem's second 3 took a little of the
sting out as his make stretched the margin to four at 33-29.
Up 35-32, Lincoln looked to extend even more with seven seconds
to go. As the Railers ran their play, each pass ended up exactly
where it was supposed to, with the final pass going to Bowlby on the
low block. His layup as time expired in the third would increase the
Lincoln lead going into the fourth… had he made it. His miss from
point-blank range was one of those "uh-oh" moments, hoping that miss
would not come back to haunt the home squad.
[to top of second column]
It didn't take long for Lanphier to take advantage as they
scored the first four points of the fourth to take their final
lead of the night at 36-35. But give credit to the Railers. In
the past, being down in the fashion they were might have been
enough to break the spirit of the team. Not this night. The
Railers held their composure and answered right back and then
some. A basket from Podbelsek put Lincoln up 37-36 and the run
was on. A basket from Cook preceded a pair of free throws from
Bowlby as the lead grew to 41-36.
When freshman Xavier Bishop, Lanphier's only serious 3-point
threat, fouled out, all of the defensive attention turned to Austin.
The junior was held to just one free throw in each of the last three
quarters. On this night, try as he might, he would not be enough to
bring his team back.
Bowlby climbed into double figures as his basket put Lincoln up
43-36. The Railers' final six points came from the free-throw line
as they did what was needed from the stripe, going 8 of 11 during
the fourth quarter to cement the win 49-39.
"This was a big win, but I don't want to put all our stones in
one basket," Alexander said. "We have a lot of season left, and we
have to come every night to play. Based on the way we played
tonight, I think we could be a tough out for anyone later in the
Cook and Bowlby led the way with 16 and 10 points respectively,
with Cook also grabbing seven rebounds. Podbelsek finished with
nine, Block scored eight, and Horchem added six. The Railers played
only seven players on the night with Podbelsek, Horchem, and Bowlby
playing all 32 minutes and Cook and Block leaving the floor
sparingly due to foul trouble.
The Railers' stretch of seven games in nine days continues
Saturday when a familiar foe from Big 12 days returns to Roy S.
Anderson Gymnasium as the Green Wave from Mattoon come to town. The
night is scheduled for an early tip with the JV going at 5 and the
varsity set for 6:30 p.m.
MCook 6 3-5 16, Bowlby 4 2-2 10, Podbelsek 3 1-4 9, Block 1 6-7
8, Horchem 2 0-0 6, Ebelherr 0 0-0 0, Krusz 0 0-0 0. Team 16 12-18
49. 3-point field goals 5 (Podbelsek 2, Horchem 2, Cook)
Smith 15, Austin 8, Bolden 5, Millican 4, Wallace 3, Mitchell 2,
Bishop 2. 16 6-13 39. 3-point field goals 1 (Austin).
Scoring by quarters:
LCHS 12-10-13-14 49
Lanphier 12-11-9-7 39
[By JEFF BENJAMIN]
Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles