Will and Max Cook combined for 20 points, including a career-high 15
from Will Cook on five 3-pointers, as the Railers continued their
march through the County Market Winter Classic with a 53-25 victory
over Jacksonville. The win keeps Lincoln undefeated for the
tournament, while moving their overall record to 17-2 with a 6-1
mark in Central State Eight play.
"We wanted to come over here and
dominate this tournament," Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said after
picking up his 702nd career victory. "We thought by being more
aggressive with our defense, it would get the kids going, get them
into the game."
For the second game in a row, the opponents must have felt like
there were about eight Railers on the court.
Edward Bowlby got the scoring started on a lay-in after a bullet
pass from the top of the key. After Jacksonville's Blake Hance tied
the contest, Gavin Block hit a 3, and the lead would be Lincoln's
for the rest of the night. Another inside basket from Nance cut the
lead to one at 5-4 before the Railers hit the nitrous oxide on their
offense. Another basket from Bowlby started a 27-2 run that left the
homestanding Crimsons in shock.
On Wednesday night, Lincoln broke out the 3-point shot early and
often against Quincy Notre Dame. It worked so well then, why not on
Friday night. A 3 from Max Cook started the onslaught.
After Hance, who is headed to Northwestern to play football,
tried to keep his team in the game with another score that made it
11-6, it was a display of fundamental basketball at its best. First,
the smallest guy on the court at the time, Payton Ebelherr, took
advantage of textbook blocking out by his teammates to grab an
errant shot and get the putback. Max Cook then turned a steal into
two points with a layup, and the Railer lead was up to 15-6 at the
end of the first quarter.
For the first time this season, the Railers were presented with
the opportunity to find out what the offense would be without the
presence of Max Cook. The senior picked up his third foul and spent
a good portion of the first half on the bench. It's hard to tell
what a team might do when the person responsible for setting up the
offense and filling an important position on the defense is not
available. Against Jacksonville, exit one Cook, enter another one.
Will Cook hit the first of his five 3s to extend the lead to 12 at
18-6. His 3 was followed by Block hitting from behind the arc,
allowing him to tie Nathaniel Smith on the list of all-time
3-pointers at 27th with 71 3s.
After a Joey Olden score, it was more from long range as Tyler
Horchem connected, followed by two more from Will Cook. By the time
Jacksonville finally got on the board in the second quarter, Lincoln
was up 32-8. Horchem dialed up another 3 to end the first-half
scoring for Lincoln, although his tip attempt on a miss at the end
of the quarter almost went down. By halftime, it was pretty obvious
this one would be over quickly as Lincoln was ahead 35-10.
One of the issues Jacksonville had was the more aggressive
Lincoln defense. At one point late in the half, the Railers had been
whistled for nine team fouls, while Jacksonville had only two.
Normally, that might cause Railer Nation to think the officials
weren't giving Lincoln a fair shake, but on this night, it was just
fine with the coaches.
"Well, it was being more aggressive. Now, we don't want to make
silly fouls," Alexander said, "but our traps were good. We usually
trap low, but tonight we trapped a little higher. It forced them to
play a little faster than they wanted to."
That defense also held the Crimsons to just 10 shots in the first
half, while Lincoln hit 13 of their 25 attempts.
So, what does a team that's been sizzling from 3-point range do
to start the second half? You do know we are talking about Lincoln
basketball, right? Yep, Horchem hit a 3 to start the second-half
scoring and put the Railers up 38-10. The teams traded baskets over
the next few trips up and down the court, but when you are getting
three and giving up two, simple math tells you that spells victory.
[to top of second column]
With the scoreboard at The Bowl showing Lincoln well in
control at 42-15, Will Cook hit two more 3s to extend the lead.
Railer Nation may have been pleasantly surprised, but not his
teammates or coach.
"When Will plays within himself, he can be very, very good,"
Alexander said. "As coaches, we don't just see what he can do this
year, but we are already looking ahead to what he will do next
With the Railers up 48-18, a basket by the Crimsons gave them
their 10th point of the quarter. Not real significant in a 30-point
game, but for the Lincoln defense it was. The points marked the
first time in the first 11 quarters of the Winter Classic that the
Railers had surrendered double-digit scoring in a quarter. When you
do that, you'll win a lot of games.
Another way to win games is not turn the ball over. Over the last
two games, Lincoln has been cited for only five turnovers. In
contrast, the Crimsons were forced into 19 turnovers on the night.
Late in the third, Bowlby hit the last of the 12 3s Lincoln would
hit on the night, matching the number they had hit on Wednesday
night to equal a season high from behind the 3-point line.
With the margin over 30 to start the fourth quarter, the running
clock was once again in effect, and the Railers finally got a small
taste of their own medicine as Jacksonville held Lincoln scoreless
in the fourth. A little too late, I'm afraid, if you are the
Crimsons (6-12, 1-7).
The Railers were led by Will Cook's first double-figure scoring
game with 15 points. He was the only Lincoln player to reach double
digits, but three of his teammates were close with nine each as
Horchem, Block and Bowlby all had good scoring nights. Max Cook
finished with five points while Olden chipped in with four and
Ebelherr scored two.
A doubleheader is on tap for Saturday. The first game is
scheduled to tip at 11:30 a.m. with Lincoln facing off against
Rochester for the first time this season. The final game of the
night should be a dandy. If both teams hold serve in the morning
session, Glenwood will battle Lincoln for the title of the Winter
Classic. The 8 p.m. contest will be the first get-together for the
teams since the heartbreaking and controversial finish to last
season's sectional semifinal won by Glenwood in overtime on a
last-second shot by Peyton Allen.
If you are looking for some good basketball, head over to the
Bowl, but if the trip is too long or the winter weather (yes, I'm
ready for spring, too) keeps you from getting out, you can tune in
to the games on 96.3 FM or
The other scores from Friday night at the Jacksonville Classic
saw Taylorville beat Quincy Notre Dame 49-42 and Glenwood easily
over Rochester 56-32.
W.Cook 5-10 0-2 15, Horchem 3-8 0-0 9, Block 3-6 1-2 9, Bowlby
4-7 0-0 9, M.Cook 2-5-5 0-0 5, Olden 2-2 0-0 4, Ebelherr 1-2 0-0 2,
Conrady 0-1 0-0 0, Krusz 0-1 0-0 0, Dunovsky 0-1 0-0 0, Hopp 0-1 0-0
0, Fry 0-1 0-0 0, Aeilts 0-0 0-0 0. Team 20-45 1-4 53. 3-point field
goals 12-29 (W.Cook 5-9, Horchem 3-6, Block 2-5, M.Cook 1-4, Bowlby
1-2, Ebelherr 0-1, Fry 0-1, Dunovsky 0-1).
Hance 12, Hays 5, Ring 4, Baker 2, Fischer 1, Dugan 1. Team 8-24
8-11 25. 3-point field goals 1-8 (Hays).
Jacksonville 6-4-10-5 25
[By JEFF BENJAMIN]
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