Saturday, November 30, 2013
Sports News

Railers stay strong in game 3

By Jeff Benjamin

Send a link to a friend 

[November 30, 2013]  Friday night, the Lincoln Railers rode almost 80 percent shooting from 3-point range in the first half and a career night from Edward Bowlby to stay perfect on the season with a 62-41 victory over Chicago Harlan. The 3-0 start for the Railers has them alone in first place at this stage of the Eaton Corporation Round Robin Tournament, but a daunting doubleheader awaits them on Saturday.

Bowlby scored 11 of his career-best 22 points in the first quarter, helping the Railers jump out to a 17-2 lead, a far cry from the low-scoring affair Wednesday night against Morton. In fact, at the 5:25 mark Friday, when Harlan called a timeout, already down 10-0, Lincoln had matched its offensive output from the entire first half versus Morton.

Bowlby, as he did numerous times last season, got the Railers on the board and quickly, hitting for two on Lincoln's first possession. The lead grew fast as Gavin Block was able to sneak ahead of the Falcons' defense for an easy layup. Block then hit the first of his three 3-pointers on the night, and the Falcons had to regroup moments later when Bowlby scored in the paint.

The timeout gave Harlan (1-2) a chance to gather themselves and score their first basket, only to see the Railers run off seven more in a row. Bowlby and Block, who combined for 19 of Lincoln's 21 first-quarter points, each hit again from behind the arc.

The Railers were taking great advantage of the defensive lapses provided by Harlan. As my broadcast partner Josh Komnick pointed out, Harlan was very good about double-teaming the ball, but then would forget to go back and cover their man. Lincoln was given wide-open shots and connecting. Up 17-5, Bowlby scored on a layup off an alley-oop pass from Max Cook, and Adam Conrady hit one off the glass.

The lone bright spot for the Falcons in the first eight minutes came at the end of that time as Andre Hoban hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to send the teams to their benches with the Railers up 21-8.

Cook kept the Railers rolling with a basket to push the lead back to 23-8. Whether it was the early success or adjustments from Chicago Harlan, the Falcons were able to gain some momentum and start hitting shots, enough to go on a 10-2 run to pull to within 25-18. Hoban connected for two more 3s, each one a little bit farther back.

Time to find Mr. Bowlby again, who got open and drained two more 3-pointers to match his career high of 17 points (Dec. 22, 2012, against Normal West) before the first half was over. A Harlan turnover found its way ahead to Tyler Horchem, whose layup pushed the lead back to 15 at 33-18. As the teams headed to the locker room, Lincoln's 34-20 lead was bolstered by 78 percent (7 of 9) shooting from 3-point range.

The third quarter played a bit more evenly, but it was the same Railers leading the way on the scoreboard as Block and Bowlby teamed up for eight of the 10 points. Lincoln could not put Harlan away, but the Falcons could not close the gap as the margin for the quarter teetered between 12 and 16 points. Joey Olden, who continues to lead a top-notch defense (105 points allowed in the first three games), hit a pair of free throws to send the game into the fourth quarter with the home squad up 44-28.

Let's talk about those free throws. If there happens to be a need for a tiebreaker at the end of Saturday night's festivities, that tiebreaker is free throw percentage. Monday night, Lincoln hit 89 percent (16 of 18), yet plummeted back to below average and below the coach's expectations, hitting only 5 of 12 for 42 percent.

"I'd like to think Wednesday night was just one of those bad nights, but I don't know," Railer coach Neil Alexander said after his 688th career win. "I believe this team should be able to hit at least 80 percent because we're going to need them."

[to top of second column]

Well, they're not there just yet. Lincoln will head into Saturday's twin bill sinking 73 percent of the free throws, shots that provided most of the scoring in the fourth quarter.

Harlan scored the first four points of the fourth to get back to within 12. Cook hit a pair and Block added another to expand the advantage to 15, at 47-32. The Falcons did all they could to stay aggressive, but Lincoln's ball movement and spacing, things that forced them to play defense for long stretches, eventually took their toll. Harlan was able to get to the basket more than they should have, but converting did not come easily.

Up 47-35, Cook was fouled as he made a driving layup and sank the free throw to complete the three-point play and, in all honesty, take the last bit of wind out of Chicago Harlan's sails. Cook began a string for the Railers as they hit their final nine free throws of the night, all started on the second technical foul shot after Harlan's Devon Foster was assessed the penalty. As the game wound down, Horchem, Bowlby, Block and Cook each took turns hitting a pair of free throws.

The scoring ended on a 3 from the right side by Jordan Perry, the lone returning player not to score last year, who wanted to get that out of the way quickly this season and, as he connected, the bench and student section came to their feet.

Bowlby led with 22, while Block added 18, and Cook joined in with double-figure scoring of 11 points and added a team-high five assists. Horchem, still looking to find his 3-point stroke, chipped in with four, while Perry had three, and Olden and Conrady each had a pair.

Obviously, only three games in, but definitely the best of the bunch. Twelve assists on 18 baskets shows how much better the offense worked on Friday night. The defense did its job as well, forcing Harlan into 16 turnovers. This effort will have to improve even more if Lincoln hopes to pick up two more wins on Saturday.

The first game, scheduled for 1 p.m., pits the Railers against Danville, a team that came from seven down in the final moments to take the game into overtime and then shock No. 2 Cahokia 70-63. The Vikings' Denzel Smith will be the player to watch as he scored 40 points and had 17 rebounds in the upset. In the evening session, that same Cahokia team will be Lincoln's opponent in a battle of top eight teams in the state.

Along with the other two games, the first contest on Friday saw Centennial handle Morton 67-47.

Through the first three days, the standings look this way: Lincoln 3-0, Cahokia 2-1, Centennial 2-1, Danville 1-2, Chicago Harlan 1-2, Morton 0-3.


Click here to respond to this article.

Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles


< Sports index

Back to top