Saturday, February 01, 2014
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Win 20 thanks to a 20-point win

By Jeff Benjamin

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[February 01, 2014]  The last time Lincoln came home after capturing a tournament title, their following performance did not exhibit the style of play that had helped them hoist the championship. On Friday night, the Railers hoped to change that after bringing home first place from the Winter Classic.

After struggling to handle Normal West when the Collinsville holiday tournament title was fresh in their rearview mirror, the Railers wanted to capitalize on their dominant play in Jacksonville by showing the home folks what the fuss was all about. Led by a double-double, 25 points and 11 rebounds, from junior Gavin Block, Lincoln did just that, knocking off SHG 67-47. The 20-point win allowed the Railers to reach 20 victories on the season, the 31st time that has happened in Railer history.

SHG played a very physical game, so it was not an easy contest, and even though the margin at the end seemed to indicate a comfortable win, Lincoln had to play near a top level to get the victory.

One of the components of a team that is on pace to set the school record for defensive average is quickly converting turnovers into points. Lincoln started the game on a 5-0 run that was thanks to mistakes from SHG and the shooting of Tyler Horchem. The senior's 3 got the scoring started, and another turnover saw Horchem step inside the 3-point line for a rare 2-pointer. Horchem was fouled driving to the basket and split a pair of free throws, giving Lincoln a 6-0 lead. SHG was able to get on the board on a basket from Nate Lowis, who scored eight of SHG's 11 first-quarter points, all from about 2 feet away.

A layup and free throw by Max Cook got Lincoln back up by seven. As well as Cook played running the offense, it seemed hard to believe how quietly he scored his 14 points on the night. SHG was able to hang in on the play of Lowis, and while they were down 9-7, it felt as though the Cyclones (11-7, 5-5) were catching a break as Joey Olden went to the bench with two fouls at the 4:13 mark of the first quarter. They were unable to tie or take the lead on the next possession, allowing the Railers to go on an 8-0 run to grab a 10-point lead. A 3-pointer from Block after a one-dribble pull-up going to his left started the run, and a 3 from the improving Will Cook put SHG down double digits.

After SHG scored on back-to-back possessions, it was Block again with a conventional three-point play to send the Railers up 20-11 after the first quarter. On their next two baskets the Railers continued to show the expected hustle. A tip-in from Max Cook on an offensive rebound was the result of Block's continued efforts on the boards. Block missed his first shot, then followed with two more tries on putbacks before Cook's score. After a missed shot by SHG, the Railers found Horchem all alone downcourt for the layup and a 24-13 advantage. After SHG connected on one of their six 3s on the night, Lincoln (20-2, 9-1) scored another eight in a row, again led by six more by Block, who finished the first half with 17 points.

To say that the Railers were balanced in their first-half scoring might be an understatement. Up 37-24 at the break, Lincoln scored 12 points on 2-point baskets, 12 on 3-pointers and 13 more from the free-throw line. There has always been the question of "Who do you guard?" on this team, and if they can score like this, you might want to add "Where do you guard them?"

The back-and-forth continued early in the first few minutes of the third quarter. Block started the scoring with another 3, and his shot was answered by Sean McDonald. Each time SHG scored, Lincoln would answer back. Finally, up 42-30, the Railers put together the run that took most of the wind out of the SHG sails.

Lincoln amassed a 16-0 run to put the home team up 58-30. Block and Max Cook started the scoring, and then Edward Bowlby hit his first two shots on the night, both 3s. Bowlby joined Olden on the bench in the first quarter with foul trouble, but for most of the game, Bowlby was the force Lincoln needed down low, adding five rebounds.

"I thought he played real well down low," head coach Neil Alexander said. "That's the kind of effort we are going to need, and I thought he really did the job."

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Another 3 from Block and two free throws from Bowlby ended the run, prompting SHG coach Blake Lucas to bring his starters to the bench. They were met by point guard Gabe Green, who did not play during the second half after picking up his fourth foul late in the first half. The subs on the floor for the Cyclones did have some want-to, scoring 11 in a row to close within 58-41.

"I didn't like the way we started the fourth quarter; we were flat," Alexander said. "We can't have that happen."

The Railers finally put things away after Olden saved a rebound from going out of bounds and hit a cutting Max Cook, who completed another three-point play. Will Cook hit a 3-pointer to push the lead back to 24. Again the Cyclones were able to score near the end, but it was not enough as the Railers picked up the 20-point win.

Block and Max Cook led the way with 25 and 14 points. Cook also led the team with seven assists and came away with four steals, matching team high with Block. Horchem had a solid night with nine points, with Bowlby and Will Cook adding eight each. Austin Krusz hit the night's last jumper for Lincoln for his two points, and Olden chipped in with a free throw. The Railers found good production at the free-throw line, hitting on 18 of the 22 attempts.

The night did not start off well as the sophomores fell 54-44.

The Railers' next game is scheduled for Saturday night at 6:30 down at Southeast. As of this writing, the game is still on with impending winter weather affecting the area once again. The hope is, whatever the weather may bring, that the game can go on as scheduled, as the opportunities to reschedule are slowly diminishing.

Other Friday night games in the conference: Lanphier 65, Glenwood 45; Southeast 46, Rochester 37; and Springfield 68, Taylorville 57.



Block 7 7-8 25, M.Cook 5 4-4 14, Horchem 3 2-4 9, Bowlby 2 2-2 8, W.Cook 2 2-2 8, Krusz 1 0-0 2, Olden 0 1-2 1, Conrady 0 0-0 0, Ebelherr 0 0-0 0, Perry 0 0-0 0, Dunovsky 0 0-0 0, Hopp 0 0-0 0. Team 20 18-22 67. 3-point field goals 9 (Block 4, Bowlby 2, W.Cook 2, Horchem).

SHG (47)

McDonald 11, Lowis 10, Bloink 9, Zeigler 5, Aiello 3, Zanger 3, Sestak 3, Mandeville 3. Team 18 5-9 47. 3-point field goals 6 (McDonald 3, Mandeville, Zanger, Sestak).

LCHS    20-17-21-9  67
SHG      11-13-8-15  47


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