Saturday, December 13, 2014
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Railers notch first conference win of the season

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[December 13, 2014]  LINCOLN —  Gavin Block led three Lincoln Railers in double figures, including Aron Hopp’s career high 17 points, as the Railers notched their first conference win of the season with a convincing 52-28 win over previously unbeaten Rochester. The win moves Lincoln’s record to 5-2.

The Railers best defensive point effort of the season came on the heels of a double overtime loss to Jacksonville last Saturday, a game that saw too many issues with effort and “want-to.” Friday night, the fans at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium were treated to more of what we have come to expect from Railer basketball. It was an effort not lost on the coaching staff.

“The last game we came out not sharp or prepared,” Lincoln Coach Neil Alexander said after his 565th win as Railer head coach. “This team can’t do that. Every night, we have to play 32 minutes. We did tonight and you see the result.”

After Rochester got on the board first with an easy basket from Matt McClintock, Block hit the first of his three first half treys to put Lincoln up 3-2. After two more from long range by the Railers, one each from Jordan Perry and Will Cook, Rochester Coach Matt Steers took a timeout at the 5:16 mark of the first quarter, already getting a feeling the game was at a turning point with Lincoln up 9-3. A Rocket free throw was followed by a top of the key three pointer from Cook and a basket from Hopp and the Railers had quickly climbed to a double digit lead, up 14-4.

The Rockets closed the quarter scoring the final four points, including a final shot from McClintock that rattled in at the buzzer to pull Rochester to within a 14-8 deficit. The junior continued his one-man show for the Rockets scoring the first bucket of the second quarter and Lincoln’s ten-point lead was down to four. After the Railers turned up the defensive pressure, moving their trademark zone out on the Rockets, the defense instigated a 19-4 run to close out the half. Block, who connected for a game-high 18 points, struck twice from behind the three point line, once from the top of the key and again after a wild scramble for the ball. Rochester tried to hang close by temporarily halting the run with a score in the lane from Dan Zeigler.

Block made two of three free throws after being fouled in front of the Rochester bench on a three attempt, while Hopp scored on a break led by Block and Cook. Cook’s next three pushed the Railer lead to 29-12. Cook’s shooting from three has greatly improved and his shots are coming a step or two behind the line, allowing the senior to show off his range. His 20 three pointers are second on the team this season. Hopp’s inside game has been an important part of Lincoln’s wins this year and the first half ended with what have become signature plays from “Hoppy.” A quick first step and drive to the basket was followed by a layup after he leaked out on defense and was the recipient of a perfect outlet pass from Block. Lincoln’s 33-14 halftime lead felt a lot better than their play in Springfield on Saturday.

After scoring from long range in the first half, Lincoln concentrated on the inside game to start the second half. Block scored on a lob pass on an out of bounds play. A three from Dalton Handlin helped Rochester a bit, but it felt a bit too little too late. Lincoln again continued to score in bunches as Hopp scored after an offensive rebound and steal followed by a layup. After a Block basket with his toe on the line keeping it from being a three, the Railers were up comfortably 41-17.

Whether it was defensive fatigue or Rochester finally finding some rhythm to their offense, the Rockets put up a fight near the end of the third quarter. After a McClintock basket, Howard Fisher, Rochester’s best outside shooter, finally found his stroke and hit two straight threes from deep to cut the Lincoln lead to 16 at 41-25. It appeared Lincoln would stretch the lead at the end of the quarter. After running almost 90 seconds off the clock, Block’s spin move toward the lane looked like an easy two. However, Block passed instead of shot and before the Railers could fire off a shot, the buzzer sounded. Certainly not the way it was drawn up.

“Well, you had someone in the wrong spot,” Alexander said, “but you have to remember, he’s a freshman. He hasn’t been out there in spots like this.” However, in situations like this in the future, you would like to see the senior Block take the shot. “Gavin is just trying to get everyone involved.”

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Fisher continued his hot shooting to pull Rochester as close as they had been since 24-12. Another three to start the quarter brought the Rockets to 41-28. In the midst of an 11-0 run, Lincoln revisited an old reliable play, the alley-oop lob. Instead of last year’s Max Cook to Edward Bowlby, the combination of Payton Ebelherr to Block finally ended the Rochester run. It would also start an 11-0 run Lincoln would use to close out the game. After doing everything so far on the night from inside, Hopp stepped out and hit a three from the corner.

It was the first game all season Coach Alexander was able to get everybody in the game and it was someone making his varsity debut, Drew Bacon, who ended the scoring by hitting a three as the horn sounded giving the Railers the 24 point win.

It was a much better effort and as Coach Alexander pointed out, the two games Lincoln has lost this year, there was just something missing on those nights. But, on Friday night, everything was in place and Lincoln took advantage to get the win.

Lincoln was led by the 18 points from Block, Hopp contributed 17, and Mr. Consistency, Will Cook added 11. The only other scoring on the night came on threes from Perry and Bacon. Lincoln ended the night shooting 51 percent (19-37) on the game including 9 of 21 from three point range. The Rockets could only manage 39 percent shooting and was outrebounded 26-17 by Lincoln. The Railers also took advantage of the Rochester mistakes, outscoring the visitors 18-3 on points off turnovers.

A doubleheader weekend awaits the Railers. On Friday night, Lincoln will travel to SHG and then return on Saturday night to host Springfield. An important part of the Railer season, however, will happen on Sunday as the seeds and pairings are expected to be announced for the 2014 Schnucks Holiday Classic in Collinsville. It would be a surprise if Belleville Althoff is not the number one seed, and with Friday night’s win, it is possible the Railers could come in as high as the number two seed. Keep checking Lincoln Daily News and, as soon as we find out, the information will be available here.


Block 6 3-5 18, Hopp 8 0-0 17, Cook 3 2-2 11, Perry 1 0-0 3, Bacon 1 0-0 3, Ebelherr 0 0-2 0, Bowers 0 0-0 0, Fry 0 0-0 0, Aeilts 0 0-0 0, Biggs 0 0-0 0, Kirby 0 0-0 0, Hullinger 0 0-0 0, O’Donoghue 0 0-0 0. TEAM 19 5-9 52. 3 point FG 9 (Block 3, Cook 3, Hopp, Perry, Bacon).


McClintock 11, Fisher 9, Handlin 4, Zeigler 4. TEAM 11 2-6 28. 3-point FG 4 (Fisher 3, Handlin).

LCHS 14-19-8-21 52
ROCHESTER 8-6-11-3 28

[Jeff Benjamin]

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