Monday, January 14, 2013
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Railers cruise past Mattoon 50-28

By Jeff Benjamin

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[January 14, 2013]  As intense as the action and atmosphere were Friday night at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium, it was easy to assume there would be some letdown Saturday night as the Railers hosted Mattoon. Well, that would probably be underestimating the word letdown.

In a game that seemed to find Lincoln on cruise control from the opening tip, the Railers easily won the battle on both ends of the court, coming away with a 50-28 victory over the Green Wave. The win caps off a doubleheader sweep for the weekend as Lincoln improves to 14-3 on the season. That is the record they will take into Chatham week, the annual visit to Glenwood for the Winter Classic.

Although the Railers did not play near maximum effort as they did against Lanphier the night before, the visitors from the Apollo Conference were overmatched coming off the bus.

It seemed early on that the Railers were going to make an effort to work the ball more inside and not rely on 3s as much as they normally would. Less than 10 seconds into the game, Gavin Block was fouled on a shot from the low block, sending him to the line. The sophomore split the free throws, but the Railers extended the lead when Max Cook hit a 3. A basket from Mattoon's Jared Pilson got them on the scoreboard, only to be answered by baskets from Will Podbelsek and Block, who converted a three-point play from the free-throw line.

After Mattoon (5-12) scored on a free throw to start the second quarter, the Railers went on the first of two big runs in the game, scoring the next 12 points to go up 21-3. Lincoln got contributions from just about everyone on the court, led by Podbelsek. The overaggressive man defense played by Mattoon allowed the Railers many opportunities for backdoor plays. Lincoln took advantage in getting the shots, but not all of them went down. Sophomore Adam Conrady's basket in the final moments of the second quarter sent the Railers into intermission up 23-6.

If you're Mattoon, you know your scoring options just weren't there in the first half as Lincoln had more 3-point attempts (13) than Mattoon had shots (12). The Green Wave made only two of their 12 shots in the first 16 minutes.

If the crowd at Roy S. Anderson didn't think the game was decided by halftime, that thought must have quickly gone away at the end of the third. The Railers were able to get a few more shots to fall on their way to a 15-5 quarter.

Lincoln received a lot of production from Block inside, who showed some moves we have not seen as often as we'd like so far this season. He posted up frequently and, although some of the shots may not have been the best option for him at the time, his aggressiveness needs to show he is willing to take those shots against everyone, not just the weaker squads. Block finished with 15 points, just one shy of his career high.

It was another strong game for Podbelsek, who hit double figures for the seventh time this season, tallying 13 points. Where the senior has improved is in his midrange game. The recipient of many backdoor passes, he was also willing to pass up open 3s, use a dribble to clear a defender and take a 17-footer. His ability to step inside the 3-point line and hit a shot will make him more dangerous as the season moves on, as most teams may assume he will settle for just the 3.

The combination of Block and Podbelsek scored 13 of Lincoln's 15 points in the quarter as the scoreboard read 38-11 at the end of the third.

Other than feeling like it was an easy win, the nice thing about Saturday's game was that it allowed coach Neil Alexander to rest some of his players. A number of his players were on the floor for most, if not all, of the win Friday over the eighth-ranked Lions. By halftime Saturday, 10 of the 12 players on the roster had seen action. Those minutes of rest will certainly prove important leading into the five games in six days coming up.

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Mattoon was able to give a strong showing in the fourth quarter, well after this one had been put in the win column for the Railers. The 17-12 advantage was a lot too late for coach Josh Forsythe's squad, but did give them something to build on.

If there was one area of slight concern, it was the less than 60 percent free-throw shooting on the night, hindered by making only half their free throws in the fourth quarter.

No matter the opponent sitting at the opposite bench, coach Alexander is quick to caution on the dangers of not being ready to play each and every night.

"When the intensity isn't there, it affects everything -- the shooting, free throw shooting, everything," Alexander said. "And you look at Monday night, if we go in there (Chatham) not ready to play against an improved Taylorville team, we'll end up getting beat."

Block's 15 points led the way for the Railers, with Podbelsek adding 13. Max Cook, who had been the go-to guy the past few games, was able to pull back a little, scoring just six points. Conrady and Tyler Horchem each added four, Will Cook hit three of his four free throws, with Austin Krusz and Edward Bowlby adding a basket. Bobby Dunovsky rounded out the scoring, splitting a pair of free throws.

As has been the case all year, the sophomores got the night off to a good start with a convincing 60-28 win.

The Railers are back in action Monday night at 6:30 as they open play in the County Market Winter Classic in Chatham, starting with Taylorville, a team they handled by 30 earlier in the season. It also is scheduled to mark the return of Joey Olden, sidelined since game three with a broken arm. Olden is not expected to start but work back into the lineup slowly.



Block 5 5-7 15, Podbelsek 6 0-0 13, MCook 2 0-0 6, Horchem 2 0-0 4, Conrady 2 0-1 4, WCook 0 3-4 3, Krusz 1 0-0 2, Bowlby 1 0-0 2, Dunovsky 0 1-2 1, Perry 0 0-0 0, Ebelherr 0 0-2 0. Team 19 9-16 50. 3-point field goals 3 (MCook 2, Podbelsek).


Kittell 8, Price 6, AVeith 3, Scott 3, Pilsen 2, Speer 2, Wetzel 2, White 2. Team 9 6-7 28. 3-point field goals 4 (Price 2, AVeith, Kittell).

Scoring by quarters:

LCHS 9-14-15-12 50
Mattoon 2-4-5-17 28


Railer-related information:

Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles

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