You remember him, don't you? The mild-mannered alter ego of
Superman. The average-looking, do-just-enough reporter who made his
daily rounds at the Daily Planet and whose actions prompted
responses that topped out at shrugs of the shoulder and never
getting a second look for the mundane items he accomplished.
That was certainly the feeling Railer Nation may have had when leaving
Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium on Saturday night after the Railers were
unimpressive in their 52-41 victory over Normal West. The win
extended Lincoln's home winning streak to 16 and left their record
unblemished at 12-0. However, the result was less than satisfying
for the coaching staff.
"I'm really disappointed tonight," Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said
after the game. "We play the way we do down in Collinsville and then
come back home and do this. We really only had two guys show up
tonight, Joey Olden and Edward Bowlby. Everybody else, I'm not sure
what their mind was on."
The superhero-like dominance the Railers had on display to win the
tournament down in Collinsville to end 2013 was not evident against
the Wildcats (2-10). I'm not sure what their kryptonite was, but the
fans who were waiting to see the Lincoln team that dominated the
competition just a week ago are still waiting.
Early on, the tough pressure defense was doing its thing as turnover
after turnover was converted into points. After Bowlby got the
Railers on the board, Olden participated in his own layup drill for
three consecutive baskets, all after Normal West turnovers. When Max
Cook sank a 3-pointer —
the 100th of his career —
from the top of the key, the Lincoln lead was 12-3, and everything was
looking like an easy night at the "Roy."
After a defensive miscue, the outside shooting of Normal West
brought them back into the game quickly. Zach Breen hit two of his
3-pointers in the stretch and sank three free throws after being
fouled, and quicker than a hiccup, the game was tied at 12. Bowlby
put Lincoln back up 14-12, but a basket from Phil Yuncker knotted
the contest at 14 at the end of the first quarter.
As the second quarter started with Normal West jumping to their
first lead of the night on a Josh Robinson basket, it was evident
that the play of the starters was just not sitting well with
Lincoln's coach. One starter after another made their way to the
bench, with Alexander hoping they could find the focus that was not
being displayed on the court. All the scoring for Lincoln in the
second quarter came from nonstarters. Austin Krusz tied the game at
16 with a lay-in, and after a West miss, Payton Ebleherr continued
his good play with a 3-pointer from the left wing, a shot he
took with no hesitation, still showing the confidence that started
growing by leaps and bounds in Collinsville.
One thing the Railers were able to do over the previous four games,
for the most part, was that when they had a lead, the lead continued to
grow and their defense took all the energy out of any hope their
opponents had to come back. Saturday night, the Wildcats played tough
and hung in at every turn. A quick five points put Normal West back
up 21-19. A steal by Olden ended up being the only basket of the
night for Will Cook, a score that tied the game at 21 as the teams
went to the locker room.
With the starters back on the court to start the second half,
Yuncker continued to be problematic for the Railers as he set up
camp at the free-throw line and was able to hit the open shots he
was given. His first score of the second half put West up 23-21. A
free throw from Bowlby and basket from Gavin Block put Lincoln up
24-23. After another Yuncker score, Olden and Tyler Horchem hit
3s to give Lincoln a little separation at 30-25. Coach Brian Cupples continued to get the ball to Yuncker, who did not disappoint
as the Wildcats were hanging in at 30-27.
[to top of second column]
An old-fashioned three-point play from Bowlby, who led the squad with 17
points, pushed the lead to six, but the 3-point shooting
from West continued to frustrate the Railers. Breen and Hayden
Maurice were able to find the open spots and get the shots to
fall as both teams traded three-point plays of one variety or
another. A key offensive rebound from Ebelherr led to a 3
from Block to stretch the lead to 36-30. Bowlby completed
another three-point play with eight seconds to go in the quarter
after a pass from Block, but West answered again as the Lincoln
lead was only three heading to the fourth at 39-36.
Maybe Normal West wore down or Lincoln finally found that gear
they needed, but the fourth quarter was all Lincoln. An early
7-0 run in the first two minutes pushed the Railer lead to
double digits for the first time at 46-36. After a Wildcat
score, Bowlby and Block each split a pair of free throws, and an
easy lay-in from Bowlby gave Lincoln a 50-38 lead. A basket from
Max Cook finally put this one away, with the Railers winning by
This certainly was not the best performance of the season from
this Railer squad and coach Alexander is
hoping his team can find that focus before their next game.
"If you're not mentally
ready to play, it affects everything you do — shooting, passing,
rebounding, everything," Alexander said. "Tonight, for whatever
reason, we were not ready to play."
A couple of seniors led the way, with Bowlby scoring 17 and Olden
adding 12. Block scored eight, with Max Cook tallying five.
Horchem and Ebelherr each hit one 3 on the night, while Will
Cook and Krusz scored two each.
Lincoln has two games on tap this week. First, on Friday, the Railers will play their first true road game of the season by
taking on Springfield High School at Willard Duey Gymnasium. On
Saturday, the Railers will welcome Jacksonville in a game that
is rescheduled from the postponement earlier in the season. The
Springfield game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.
With the number of turnovers this defense has been able to
generate, the squad certainly could be called the "Men of
Steal." However, if we see many more Clark Kent-type
performances, we might want to try to direct the Railers to a
phone booth. We're going to need Superman to lift the
expectations this team is creating with every win.
Bowlby 6 5-8 17, Olden 5 0-1 12, Block 3 1-2 8, M.Cook 2 0-0 5,
Horchem 1 0-0 3, Ebelherr 1 0-0 3, W.Cook 1 0-0 2, Krusz 1 0-0
2, Conrady 0 0-0 0, Perry 0 0-0 0. Team 20 6-11 52. 3-point
field goals 6 (Olden 2, M.Cook, Horchem, Ebelherr, Block).
NORMAL WEST (41)
Breen 15, Yuncker 9, Jones 7, Maurice 6, Robinson 4. Team 15 4-8
41. 3-point field goals 7 (Breen 4, Maurice 2, Jones).
Lincoln 14-7-18-13 52
Normal West 14-7-15-5 41
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