[February 03, 2014]SPRINGFIELD — The sound you
heard coming from Springfield on Saturday night may have been the
diesel engine that is the Lincoln Railers. The winter weather that
threatened to postpone the Central State Eight contest brought with
it snow, ice, freezing rain and, of course, the cold. We all know
how hard it can be for diesels to get going when the weather turns
On Saturday night, the Railer diesel engine took a while to get
going, but as diesel engines do, once it got fired up and heading
down the road, it showed the power and performance you would expect
as the Railers crushed Southeast 70-47. The win improves the Railer
record to 21-2 and keeps them with an eye on the conference title at
The main gear of the engine, Gavin Block, continued his
ever-improving play, leading the team with 22 points and nine
rebounds. The junior has averaged almost 19 points a game over the
last 10 games for the Railers. All this from someone who did not hit
his first field goal until the middle of the third quarter. However,
it was not just Block starting slowly on Saturday night.
"We saw it in pregame," head coach Neil Alexander said after
picking up his 547th win at Lincoln. "They (Southeast) had some hop
to their steps during warm-ups and we — we just seemed to be out
Southeast got on the board first with a 3-pointer that was
answered by a basket from Edward Bowlby. The senior was on his way
to one of his best games of the season with 18 points on 7-of-8
shooting and a team-high three steals. But, the target of being the
No. 3 team in the state gave the Spartans the extra incentive they
needed as they quickly built an 8-2 lead over the Railers.
Throughout much of the first quarter, Lincoln just seemed to be a
step slower than the host squad.
After a pair of free throws from Block, Tyler Horchem converted a
turnover into points. After a tip-away by Joey Olden, Horchem tipped
the ball down the court and chased it down for the layup. After
another 3 from Southeast, Horchem delivered his only 3 of the night,
a shot that ties him for 21st overall on the list of all-time 3s
made (with Chuck Miller, 91). Block continued his mastery at the
free-throw line after being fouled on a 3- pointer and making all
three attempts to knot the game at 12.
The play that could have changed the game occurred at the 2:24
mark when Block picked up his second foul, sending him to the bench.
A basket from Southeast gave them a 14-12 advantage heading into the
second quarter. Before that, the Railers had trailed after the first
quarter only once this season.
A basket from Olden tied the game at 14. With Block on the bench,
the scoring would have to be picked up somewhere, and the Railers'
Mr. Steady stepped up. Bowlby knocked down two 3-pointers, and after
Adam Conrady drained a baseline jumper, the six-point deficit the
Railers were facing early had been turned into a seven-point lead at
Foul trouble pestered Lincoln in the first half as Block, Bowlby
and Olden all sat after picking up their second fouls. For many
teams, getting to your eighth and ninth players down the bench may
break up some of the rhythm. Coach Alexander has said before that
the depth of this team is one of its strengths, and that certainly
was evident Saturday night.
"The way our bench has been playing as of late has given us
coaches a great deal of confidence in them," Alexander said. "Anyone
we put in there has shown they can do the job we ask them to do. It
is a big plus."
Will Cook continued his perfectly timed 3s with a shot from the
corner. If one Cook is good, two are better, as Max Cook scored
after a classic spin move in the lane and layup to put Lincoln up
27-21. Bowlby extended the lead with another 3-pointer, and then
foul trouble caught up with Southeast. Big man Jaylen Henry crashed
the boards on an offensive rebound, battling with Bowlby. Henry was
able to make the basket, and many thought the ensuing whistle would
send Bowlby to the bench with his third. However, the official
making the call indicated Henry had used a little too much elbow in
making space, and he headed to the bench with his third while wiping
out the basket.
The game's first "ouch" moment, if you're Southeast, came seconds
later, when Will Cook answered the nullified basket by the Spartans
by sinking a wide-open 3-pointer as Lincoln took their first
double-digit lead of the night at 33-23. The nine-point lead the
Railers had was thanks to some good shooting, 58 percent from the
field, including 67 percent from 3-point range. Up nine and their
leading scorer with only five free throws, Lincoln seemed to be in a
Or, so you would think.
Southeast came out from the locker room on a quick 6-0 run to
bring the game to a one-possession contest at 35-32. Three more free
throws from Block were answered by one of six 3s from freshman
Isaiah Walton to bring the game back to three again. After Block
connected on his first field goal of the night, another 3 brought
the Spartans (10-10, 7-4) to 40-38, as close as they had been since
the early stages of the second quarter.
Cue the next gear.
The Railers blistered Southeast with a 30-9 run, using mostly
dribble drives to the basket, to pull away for the win. After Olden
started the run, a 3 from the right corner by Payton Ebelherr pushed
the lead to nine. Block scored on a spin move, and Bowlby made a
nice catch of a lob pass, came down, gathered himself and went up
for a reverse layup. Block then continued to dominate in the lane
with a layup and then another, this one while being fouled.
Southeast was able to get a score, but the trio of Max Cook, Bowlby
and Block put the finishing touches on this one. After more drives
down the lane, Block ended the scoring with a 3 from the near
The Railers were led by three in double figures, with Block
topping the scoring with 22, Bowlby adding 18, and Max Cook had
another great game as the floor general while scoring 10 points.
Will Cook added six, Horchem scored five, and Olden chipped in with
four. Ebelherr had a 3-pointer, while Conrady scored two.
It was a very good weekend for the Railers, getting two
conference wins over teams they should have beaten. Still some
issues to fix, but playing much better, and now that we are in
February, everything is pointing to how the seeds will fall for the
Of course, there is that game scheduled for Feb. 28, at this
point a possible matchup of two of the top three teams in the state.
I do have a Twitter account, but am not on it like a lot of folks,
but I'd like to offer a hashtag for that game against Lanphier.
Let's start something with #packroysanderson.
However, there are games to be played before then. Lincoln only
has one game this week, a home date with the Senators of Springfield
on Saturday night. It is a game they should win, but at this point,
you can't overlook any opponent.