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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
[By JEFF BENJAMIN]
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