[February 22, 2014]SPRINGFIELD — As the regular
season winds down for the Lincoln Railers, each game presents a
different challenge as they prepare for state tournament play
beginning in a little over a week. On Friday night, it took a while
to find the right formula, but when they did, it was more of the
same as Lincoln continued their winning ways.
Gavin Block led three players in double figures as Lincoln won their
12th in a row, a 76-54 win over SHG. The victory allowed the Railers
to stay in the hunt for a share of the Central State Eight title, a
race that will be decided next Friday night as No. 3 Springfield
Lanphier comes to town to wrap up the regular season.
of 22 does not tell the whole story of this game as the Railers
built an early 15-point lead only to head to the locker room with
just a six-point advantage.
"They (SHG) are a good team," Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said
after the contest. "They came ready to play, and we knew they were
going to after the game at our place. I don't think we were
surprised by their effort, but we came ready to play as well."
Trying to duplicate the 20-point win in January at home, Lincoln
jumped on the scoreboard early with a 3-pointer from Joey Olden. SHG
quickly answered on a 3 from Malik Turner, the senior who will be
playing wide receiver for the University of Illinois next season. As
has been the case in recent games, teams are having to pick their
poison against the Railers. Friday night, the Cyclones chose to
focus their attention on Block, Max Cook and Edward Bowlby. Other
Railers have been put in a position to carry the early load, and
their success has been the result of those others coming through.
Tyler Horchem hit from 3-point range to give the lead back to
Lincoln at 6-3. SHG held tough, taking the lead at 7-6.
As the game struggled to find a rhythm, Max Cook sank a couple of
free throws and then hit a 3-pointer to push the Railers back in
front at 11-7. Another five in a row from SHG (17-8, 9-6) gave the
home team their final lead of the night at 12-11. Block made his
presence known with a basket and a pair of free throws. The junior
then made a perfect pass to fellow classmate Will Cook, who scored
on the give-and-go to put the Railers up 17-12. The bench continued
their stellar play as Payton Ebelherr sank a 3 from the left corner
in front of the SHG student section as the first quarter came to an
Will Cook kept the run going to start the second quarter as he
hit from the far corner and was fouled. His free throw completed the
four-point play and extended the run to 13-0 as Lincoln moved to a
double-digit lead at 24-12.
"I thought our bench played great," Alexander said. "They've been
playing well for a while and tonight was no different."
A free throw from SHG stopped the run, and a free throw from Adam
Conrady and another 3 from Will Cook pushed the margin to the
largest of the night in the first half at 28-13.
SHG's Ben Sestak and Dominic Aiello did what they could to keep
the Cyclones in the game. Sestak scoring from outside, while Aiello
was finding little difficulty on the offensive boards, allowed SHG
to hang with Lincoln. After Olden took a steal and went in for the
layup, the Railers were back up by 13 at 34-21. However, the duo of
Sestak and Aiello brought the Cyclones closer by going on a 6-0 run,
cutting the Lincoln lead to just seven. Edward Bowlby sank a 3 to
get the Railer lead back to 10, but SHG took the momentum into the
break with four in a row, and the Lincoln advantage was only six at
Horchem kept the Railers in front to begin the second half by
hitting two 3s, the second putting Lincoln up 45-37. The Railers
continued to apply the pressure with an easy 2 from Bowlby on an
assist from Max Cook, a driving layup from Cook and a one-dribble
contested 3 from Block. One of the characteristics of this Lincoln
team as of late is the ability to stretch leads quickly. By the time
Block's 3 had found the bottom of the net, the Railers had jumped
out on top by 15 at 52-37.
A 3 from Nate Lowis temporarily stopped the Lincoln push, but
Block put five more on the board before the end of the quarter
as the Railers (26-2, 14-1) took a 59-42 edge to the fourth
SHG made their last run of the night with a fast six points to
start the fourth, closing to within 11. In a sight Railer Nation has
gotten used to, Block started the run that would put this game out
of reach. His 3 was followed by a reverse layup from Bowlby. Olden
scored on a long pass on an out-of-bounds play, while Block scored
prior to Max Cook scoring on a one-on-three layup. Cook's score gave
Lincoln their first 20-point lead of the night, 70-50.
SHG's tried to stay close, but sending the Railers to the
free-throw line late proved futile, and Lincoln was able to pull out
a hard-fought 76-54 win.
Lincoln finished with six players scoring nine or more, with
Gavin Block leading with 21 points and seven assists. Max Cook
contributed 11 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Bowlby added 11 points and six rebounds as Horchem, Olden and Will
Cook chipped in with nine each. Conrady and Ebelherr both scored
three to round out the scoring for the Railers.
Saturday night, the Railers play their final true road game as
they head to Moline to take on the Maroons. Game time is set for
6:30 at the historic Wharton Field House.