At the 5:17 mark of the fourth quarter, a corner 3-pointer from
junior Gavin Block, who scored a career-high 22 points, put the
Railers up to stay and fueled the run that would turn the
seven-point deficit into a nine-point win. Down 38-31 late in the
third quarter, Block was fouled on a 3-point attempt. Block, who
entered the season as a career 78 percent free throw shooter, hit
all three foul shots. Those points started the run that helped the
Railers knock off Centennial for the fourth year in a row at the
Eaton Corporation Round Robin Tournament. Free throws were certainly
the key as Lincoln converted 16 of 18 from the line, including their
last 12 in a row.
It took a while for anyone to score, but two
free throws — what else on this night? — from Block at the 5:24 mark
of the first put the season's first points on the board. Both teams
went back and forth, but it was a shot fake, then a 3 at the buzzer
from Block that put Lincoln up 10-8 at the end of the first quarter.
The 3 from the junior started a 10-0 run that helped the Railers
claim a nine-point advantage at 17-8.
season preview article, I wondered who might fill the
void of intensity and hustle left by the graduation of Will Podbelsek. Monday night's nominee turned out to be junior Will Cook.
He converted one of two free throws after being fouled on a rebound
shot, then came up with a steal that went over to Payton Ebelherr
and ended up as a basket and free throw for Max Cook, the only other
Railer in double figures, with 14. The younger Cook's efforts were
not lost on coach Alexander.
"I hope the rest of them learned a little from Will Cook out
there," Alexander praised. "He played with a lot of heart out there
and got us going."
Lincoln (1-0) went up 20-11 on a 3-pointer from Tyler Horchem.
That 3 was answered by a pair of long-range connections from
University of Illinois recruit Michael Finke. The 6-foot-9 senior
played most of the first half on the perimeter, and the two 3s he
hit were on-the-move shots.
As they did at the end of the first quarter, the Railers used all
possible time to score, and Max Cook drained a 3 as the clock expired
to end the first half . Lincoln took a 23-17 lead into the locker room.
Whatever Centennial coach Tim Lavin expressed at halftime must have
worked because it did not take long for his squad to climb back
into the contest.
A quick 4-0 spurt pulled the Chargers to within a basket, but
Edward Bowlby's first basket of the night pushed the Railer lead
back to four at 25-21. The margin stayed the same until 29-25, when
Centennial turned up the pressure and intensity to begin their best
stretch of the night. While the Railers failed to connect on some
easy looks, both 2- and 3-pointers, Centennial used their toughness
to go on a 13-2 run with all made baskets inside the paint.
Easy shots leading to a hard lesson.
"You have to play with a chip on your shoulder, and we didn't do
that in the third," Alexander said. "We played soft, and if we do
that the rest of the week, or the rest of the season, it will be
Steven Lee and Finke combined to score 14 points in the quarter
for the Chargers as they dominated the boards and inside play to
take a 38-31 lead. The three free throws from Block stopped the run
and began the momentum swing back to the Railers. Bowlby hit a 3 to
pull Lincoln to within one at 38-37. After Block hit the 3 to give
the lead back to the tournament hosts, no one scored again until the
1:55 mark, when Max Cook converted on a driving layup and free throw
after being fouled.
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The drive and conversion by Cook was a rare sight from the
Railers on Monday night. Many times throughout the contest, Lincoln
penetrated to the rim but would kick the ball out for an open 3,
passing up easy shots in the lane.
Up 43-38, Centennial continued to struggle as the Railer pressure
was turned up a gear, thanks to Will Cook and Joey Olden. Both were
instrumental in forcing turnovers that led to points during the
course of the game. Lincoln's last six points came from the line as
Block hit four more and Max Cook hit a pair. It wasn't until
late in the quarter that Finke laid in Centennial's only points of
As Olden dribbled it out as the clock sounded, the season got off
to a good start, but with plenty of things for the coaching staff to
work on. If one word could describe what the focus of instruction
may be, it would be tough.
"If you're not tough today, you're not going to be able to be
tough in March," Alexander said.
One game down, a season's worth to go. The Railers are happy to
have the win, but the coaching staff may just show them the third
quarter. Lincoln was able to escape with the one bad quarter on
Monday night. However, the competition they are yet to face the rest
of the week, not to mention the rest of the season, may not afford
them the luxury of having a bad stretch.
Along with Block's 22 and Max Cook's 14 points, Bowlby added
five, with Horchem and Will Cook scoring three each. Adam Conrady
added the only other two for the Railers.
The next game is Wednesday night as Lincoln will play host to
Morton. Game time is set for 7:30 and will give anyone out there who
needs one a good excuse to not be able to help out with preparing
the Thanksgiving feast.
Morton fell to Cahokia 69-61 in the night's first game, while
newcomer Chicago Harlan held on to beat Danville 72-70.
Block 4-11 11-12 22, M.Cook 4-6 4-4 14, Bowlby 2-6 0-0 5, Horchem
1-4 0-0 3, W.Cook 1-2 1-2 3, Conrady 1-2 0-0 2, Olden 0-0 0-0 0,
Ebelherr 0-1 0-0 0, Krusz 0-1 0-0 0. Team 13-33 16-18 49.
3-point field goals, 7-21 (Block 3-8, M.Cook 2-4, Bowlby 1-4,
Horchem 1-4, Ebelherr 0-1).
Finke 14, Lee 10, Howard 8, Byrd 6, Toombs 2. Team 16 4-4 40.
3-point field goals, 4 (Finke 2, Howard 2).
[By JEFF BENJAMIN]
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