After the hiccup on Wednesday night in the loss to
Mahomet-Seymour, the Railers turned things around and closed out
this year’s tournament with a solid Saturday. The prospects of a
title this year were looking bleak until Mahomet-Seymour dropped
both games on Saturday, meaning if the Railers could win out, their
victory over Centennial on Friday would prove to be the difference
as Lincoln had the head-to-head advantage over the Chargers.
Lincoln finished off the tournament with a 43-29 win over Morton.
The fact it was a low-scoring affair was not really a surprise as,
in recent history, these two teams have certainly not run the
batteries down on the scoreboard. The 29 points scored by Morton are
the fifth fewest in a game in the annals of the tournament, while
the 72 points combined by both teams is the fifth fewest as well.
Three of the four fewer point games were games between the Railers
and the Potters.
In a game in which Lincoln never trailed, the Railers also found out
what it would be like to play without senior Gavin Block as he was
forced to sit for about half the second half with foul trouble,
eventually fouling out with 2:24 left in the game. Fortunately,
while on the bench, Lincoln was able to build the lead without their
leading scorer. However, it is a situation Railer Nation hopes will
not be the rule as opposed to the exception.
“No, they were not smart fouls,” Coach Neil Alexander said.
“However, it’s something he has to learn from and not do. But, if he
comes out in the next game and does the same thing, then he didn’t
learn from his mistake.”
The first half was a back and forth battle between the two familiar
foes. Jordan Perry, as he did earlier in the day, put the Railers on
the board with a three-pointer only to be answered by Morton’s Jared
Liddle. Block, one of two Lincoln players on the all-tournament
team, put Lincoln back up with the first of his four threes on the
night. Sophomore Ryan Altenberger, Morton’s only representative on
the all-tourney team, knotted the game at six. Steals and layups
from Will Cook and Aron Hopp, the other Railer to make the tourney
team, gave Lincoln a 10-6 advantage. Payton Ebelherr rounded out the
first quarter scoring with a three of his own and the balanced
Lincoln attack took a 13-10 lead into the second quarter. Balance
was key early on for the Railers as each starter connected for a
basket in the first eight minutes.
The second quarter remained close as the teams traded baskets,
Morton’s all from three point range, a fact that concerned
Alexander. “They had 19 points in the first half, but hit five
threes so 15 of those points came from three pointers. We told them
we need to do a better job of covering their shooters.”
In the second half, they certainly did. As the second quarter came
to a close, it was Hopp doing the scoring on cuts to the baskets,
getting assists from Cook and Block. The Railers had the lead at
half 23-19, but a key would be the outside shooting of Morton. The
Potters (1-4) took only two shots inside the three-point line in the
After Block, the tourney’s leading scorer with 107 points in the
five games, hit a three to put Lincoln up 26-21, a rebound basket
from Altenberger got Morton as close as they would be the rest of
the night. Hopp continued his career night, getting fouled after a
basket on a baseline drive. His free throw put the Railers up by
six, a margin that looked in jeopardy when at the 2:53 mark of the
third quarter, Block picked up his fourth foul on a reach-in at half
court. This would be the first time all season the Railers would be
forced to play without the senior.
Apparently, no problem.
The Railers went on a 9-2 run to take a 36-25 lead and when Block
returned with 3:50 to go in the game, Lincoln had pulled out to a
38-27 lead. Block wasted no time in getting back in the flow of
things when he drained his fourth three of the game to stretch the
margin to 14. It would be his final basket of the night because at
the 2:24 mark, Block was whistled for his fifth foul on a play about
as far away from the Morton basket as you can get. However, Morton
could not take advantage and did not score the rest of the game
while the Railers finished things off at the free throw line for the
14 point win.
After a night earlier having to leave the game early after being
elbowed in the head, Hopp, who received three stitches, led the way
with a career best 15 points. Block was in double figures with 13,
while Cook added six. Perry scored five on the evening with Ebelherr
chipping in with four
In the morning contest, the Railers came back from an early
seven-point deficit to get past Cahokia 61-47. In a rematch of last
year’s supersectional contest in Springfield, both teams were
dealing with the graduation loss of key players. Fortunately for
Lincoln, the Railers had enough to get the win.
[to top of second column]
After getting down early 7-0, Jordan Perry finally got Lincoln on
the board with a three-pointer. A basket from Cahokia’s DeVonte
Williams pushed the deficit back to six. Lincoln stormed back to
take the lead with an 8-0 run. Payton Ebelherr got the run going
with a drive and lay-up. The senior, who had not looked for his shot
much in the first three games, was the key to getting the Railers
back in the game.
“Payton played a great game today; he set the whole tempo for the
game,” Coach Neil Alexander said. “Him getting to the basket set up
what we did today. But, even if he doesn’t score, he is important to
us. He is our point guard and the point on our defense and can
affect the game without scoring.”
After a lay-up from Will Cook, it was Ebelherr again with the lay-up
to tie the game at nine. Lincoln took their first lead on an
offensive rebound basket from Gavin Block. Cahokia free throws tied
the game at 11, but Block hit a three pointer to give Lincoln the
lead for good at 14-11. Another drive by Ebelherr and three from
Block helped Lincoln to a 19-16 lead at the end of the first
Lincoln put the game away early with a dominating 19-5 run over the
second quarter. After a drive and lay-in by Aron Hopp, the Railers
got three-pointers from Will Cook and Block. After another drive and
score from Ebelherr, Cook hit on one of his four threes after the
typical extra-pass mentality. Block had an open three, but the extra
pass found Cook more open. It was Cook to end the first half scoring
with another three and Lincoln headed to the locker room up 38-21.
“We definitely executed better today,” Alexander said. The second
half was more of the same for Lincoln, running the offense with
precision to find the open shots. Even though they were down early,
and had beaten Danville by 34 points on Monday, the win over Cahokia
may have been their best team game of the week.
A nine-point run from Block gave Lincoln a 57-35 lead and gave him a
game-high 26 points, his third game of the tournament of 25 or more
Along with Block’s 26, Cook and Ebleherr joined in double figures
with 14 and 12 points respectively. Perry added a three-pointer,
while Hopp, Isaiah Bowers, and David Biggs each scored two.
The Railers will now get the week off before heading to Springfield
on Saturday. As part of an all-day shootout at the Prairie Capital
Convention Center where all ten Central State Eight teams will open
conference play, Lincoln is scheduled to take on Jacksonville at
7:30. It is the eighth game of the day, so be prepared for a game
that may start a bit later than that.
The final standings for this year’s tourney look like this: Lincoln
4-1, Centennial 4-1, Mahomet-Seymour 3-2, Cahokia 2-3, Danville 1-4,
Morton 1-4. The all-tournament team members were: Lincoln (Gavin
Block and Aron Hopp), Mahomet (Connor Diedrich and Christian
Romine), Centennial (Nick Finke and Quin Nottingham), Morton (Ryan
Altenberger), and Cahokia (Montez Crumble).
Block 9 4-4 26, Cook 5 0-0 14, Ebelherr 6 0-0 12, Perry 1 0-0 3,
Hopp 1 0-0 2, Bowers 1 0-0 2, Biggs 1 0-0 2, Aeilts 0 0-1 0, Fry 0
0-0 0. TEAM 24 4-5 61. 3-point FG 9 (Cook 4, Block 4, Perry).
Crumble 9, Williams 9, Harrison 6, Bell 6, Franklin 6, Davis 5, Hill
2, Brown 2, Chism 2. TEAM 17 8-11 47. 3-point FG 5 (Harrison 2,
Crumble 2, Davis)
LCHS 19-19-13-10 61
CAHOKIA 16-5-12-14 47
Hopp 6 3-5 15, Block 4 1-2 13, Cook 2 2-2 6, Perry 1 2-2 5, Ebelherr
1 1-4 4, Aeilts 0 0-0 0, Bowers, 0 0-0 0. TEAM 14 9-16 43. 3-point
FG 6 (Block 4, Perry, Ebelherr)
Altenberger 13, Liddle 8, Ham 4, Rossi 2, Bolt 2. TEAM 11 2-2 29.
3-point FG 5 (Alternberger 3, Liddle 2).
LCHS 13-10-9-11 43
MORTON 10-9-4-6 29
[by Jeff Benjamin]