Saturday, January 11, 2014
Sports News

Effort good, execution not as Lincoln stays undefeated

By Jeff Benjamin

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[January 11, 2014]  SPRINGFIELD Perhaps it was looking ahead to a matchup with top-ranked Springfield Lanphier next Friday. Maybe it was the early dismissal on Friday caused by a power outage. Heck, maybe it might even have been the effects of the geomagnetic storm causing atmospheric turmoil on the Earth.

Whatever the reason, the Railers played hard but without the expected focus in Friday night's 55-41 conference win over Springfield. The victory ups the Lincoln record to 13-0, 3-0 in the CS8. The effort was better, but the execution left a lot to be desired.

"Don't get me wrong, the kids played hard tonight. I was pleased with that," Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said. "What we weren't good with was the decision-making; quick shots, errant passes, a lot of things."

After the dominance at Collinsville was followed by the less-than-stellar effort last Saturday against Normal West, Railer Nation was hoping for a return to the tournament form. However, for the second game in a row, it felt as though the Railers did just enough to come away with a 14-point win.

Now, you may say a 14-point win is not too bad. Maybe the expectations are too much. Well, it's not the margin, it's the manner.

"This is something we had issues with last year," Alexander said. "We had trouble closing out games, and we worked on that this summer. At Collinsville, that's how we want it; if you're up 20, get to 30. We want that running clock. That's how to finish out games."

The start of the game gave hope the Railers would hit the gas and go, as an 8-0 run put Lincoln up early. Springfield found it difficult to even set up their offense, as time and again the Lincoln defense, led by Joey Olden, kept tipping passes and forcing turnovers. Three-pointers from Max Cook and Tyler Horchem sandwiched around an Edward Bowlby lay-in of a Cook lob put Lincoln on top.

The Senators remained undaunted and took advantage of some sloppy ballhandling to run off seven in a row to cut the Railer lead to one. The game of runs continued with Lincoln notching the next six, including a 3 from Bowlby. Up 14-7, the Railers allowed five in a row to see their advantage down to two. A perfectly executed backdoor play resulted in a Payton Ebelherr layup to give Lincoln the 16-12 lead going to the second.

Going into the game, the Railers had averaged giving up about six points in the first quarter, not allowing double-digit scoring in the first 11 games. Over the last two, both Normal West and Springfield have bested that plateau (14 for West and 12 on Friday night).

The defense held the Senators to only a single 3-point basket in the second quarter. Unfortunately, the offense could not take full advantage. Block got the scoring started on a three-point play after a tough drive down the lane while getting fouled. Olden followed up with a steal and layup, a basket where the Railers caught a break when the officials let go what appeared to be a kick of the ball, leading to Olden's score. After the Senator 3, Olden was fouled across the head as he made a layup. After his free throw, Max Cook ended the first-half scoring with his third basket of the night, and the Railers led at the half 26-15.

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Lincoln seemed to take control of the game with a 7-0 run to start the third. Lincoln went up 33-17 on a Max Cook layup, taking advantage of the lack of effort on the part of Springfield's 6-foot-8 scoring leader Obediah Church. After Church missed 3-point bank shots, his frustrations left him under his basket, upset at the misses and lack of calls from the officials. His absence on the defensive end left the lane wide open, and Cook schooled his defender all the way to the rim. Just like the first half, if you thought the Senators were going away, they were not, as a 5-0 run pulled the game back to an 11-point margin.

The Railers were able to get baskets from Olden and Bowlby near the end of the quarter, and Lincoln had stretched the lead to 12 heading to the fourth, 37-25.

After Springfield (4-10, 1-4) cut the lead to 10, the Railers got a big 3 from Will Cook. The junior's 3 from the left corner put Lincoln up 40-27. Lincoln seemingly put the game out of reach as they went on a 12-2 run on the strength on two 3s from Bowlby and a couple of drives to the basket by Max Cook. The senior point guard used his veteran guile to get to the basket at will against his defender, a freshman.

With the Railers up 52-30, the hope was that they would continue to push the right buttons. However, over the last four minutes, the team seemed to shift into cruise control. A string of 3s from long range by Keon Day pulled the Senators as close as 11, but it would not be enough on the rainy Friday night.

Lincoln placed two players in double figures, with Max Cook scoring a season-high 15 points and Bowlby adding 13. Olden scored nine along with playing tough pressure defense, while Block scored seven and Horchem added six. Will Cook scored three while Ebelherr chipped in with two.

Lincoln will try to put forth a closer-to-32-minute effort on both ends of the court on Saturday night as Jacksonville visits Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium. This is the game rescheduled from December due to the weather. The varsity is set to start at 6:30, with the sophomore game tipping at 5 p.m.

___

LINCOLN (55)

M.Cook 6-12 2-3 15, Bowlby 5-9 0-1 13, Olden 4-6 1-1 9, Block 2-7 3-5 7, Horchem 2-4 0-0 6, W.Cook 1-4 0-0 3, Ebelherr 1-2 0-0 2, Krusz 0-1 0-0 0. Team 21-45 6-10 55. 3-point field goals 7-19 (Bowlby 3-7, Horchem 2-3, M.Cook 1-3, W.Cook 1-2, Block 0-2, Olden 0-1, Ebelherr 0-1).

SPRINGFIELD (41)

Nelson 17, Church 10, Day 9, Watters 3, Kincaid 2.

Lincoln        16-10-11-18  55
Springfield    12-3-10-16   41

[By JEFF BENJAMIN]

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