Monday, January 27, 2014
 
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Railers crowned champions of County Market Classic

By Jeff Benjamin

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[January 27, 2014]  JACKSONVILLE As the title game for the 2014 County Market Winter Classic approached on Saturday night, the anticipated matchup between Lincoln and Chatham Glenwood held as advertised. The tournament officials set up the schedule so they got the two best teams coming in undefeated and playing for the outright title. What they may not have planned for was the complete dominance of one team, making the night's outcome a foregone conclusion by early in the third quarter.

Lincoln's 53-31 win over the Titans crowned the Railers as the champions for the tournament's inaugural term in Jacksonville. The win allowed Lincoln to go undefeated in the Winter Classic for the sixth time, improving their overall mark in the 12 years in the tournament to 53-6. During the week, Lincoln (19-2, 8-1) set the record for most 3s (46), largest margin of victory (53 over Quincy Notre Dame) and placed three players on the all-tournament team for the second year in a row. Although the MVP was awarded to Glenwood's Peyton Allen, it was back-to-back years on the all-tourney team for Gavin Block, Edward Bowlby and Max Cook. Many in the crowd, especially those who reside in Railer Nation, felt the MVP should have been awarded to Block. He may not have won the MVP by votes, but he was the best No. 22 on the court Saturday night.

Block's 20 points led a dominating performance as the junior was 7 of 8 from the field, along with hitting all four free throws. It was a game where Lincoln never trailed after they ran a minute off the clock before taking their first shot, a 3 from Block. Tyler Horchem's 3 got Lincoln up 6-0 while the high-scoring offense from Glenwood did not get on the board until Allen hit a pair of free throws at the 3:06 mark. After trading scores, Block hit the first big shot of the game, a 3 from the top of the key while being fouled by Allen. He converted the four-point play and hit another shot before the end of the first quarter to up his quarter total to 11 while the Lincoln lead was already 14-4.

Glenwood scored the first two of the second to bring the lead to under double figures for the last time at The Bowl. The Railer defense and hustle put together an 11-0 run that took almost all the steam out of Glenwood's efforts. Payton Ebelherr got it started with an offensive rebound and putback. He may have been the smallest player on the floor, but credit his hustle and the boxing out by his teammates to allow him down the lane for the 2. No surprise the next basket came as a result of the hustle of Joey Olden. The Railer defensive specialist tipped the ball away and then outran two Titans to the basketball and went in for the layup. After another basket from Block, Glenwood attempted to throw the ball in on the baseline. Because of the Lincoln pressure, they were forced to throw the ball into the backcourt, but they may not have counted on the hustle of Max Cook, who outraced the intended Glenwood recipient of the ball and headed straight for another Lincoln basket. To end the run, Lincoln went back to old reliable, the 3-point shot. Will Cook's 3 extended the Lincoln lead to 25-6.

The Titans tried to grab some of the momentum back by scoring four points at the end of the quarter, but, as most things did on Saturday, the Railers ran their end-of-quarter offense to perfection as Olden drained a 3 at the end of the half, sending the teams to the break with Lincoln up 28-10.

The message at halftime for the Railers must have been, "Let's not stop here." After Max Cook's basket to start the scoring, Glenwood got as close as they would the rest of the night with five in a row to close the gap to 15 at 30-15. Time to call Mr. Block, who connected for five in a row, while Horchem hit his second 3 of the night and the Railers were up 38-17.

As the margin grew, the frustration in Glenwood became more evident as the Railers were playing as loose and confident as we've seen all year. A 9-2 run in the fourth took whatever hope Glenwood may have had as Lincoln cruised over the final minutes to get the 22-point win. I guess the matchup may have been their toughest since it was the closest margin of the tournament.

With Lincoln winning games by 27, 53, 28, 31 and 22, the Railers may have been more dominant during this past week than they were in Collinsville. Something about tournaments just brings out the best in these Railers. Of course, their next tourney participation is the most important.

Block's 20 led the way, with Max Cook scoring eight, Horchem and Ebelherr adding six each, and Olden and Will Cook scoring five. Edward Bowlby hit a late 3 for his scoring on the night.

The final standings for the Winter Classic: Lincoln 5-0, Glenwood 4-1, Taylorville 3-2, Jacksonville 2-3, Rochester 1-4 and Quincy Notre Dame 0-5.

The Railers got their Saturday started with another workmanlike performance in their 54-23 victory over Rochester. Once again, it was good defense leading the way for Lincoln, as they held the Rockets to single-digit scoring over the first three quarters and closed by pitching a shutout in the fourth. The Red and Green Menace that is the Railer defense was certainly on display this week in Jacksonville, as only twice has a team posted 10 or more points in a quarter.

As has been the mantra for this Railer team when things are going well, "Who do you guard?' During the morning session, the Railers had three players in double figures as they picked up their 18th win on the season.

After Rochester took the early lead on a basket from their big guy in the middle, Matt Swaine, the Railers answered back on an Edward Bowlby score on a lob pass. Lincoln took the lead for good on a 3-pointer from Bowlby. The 3 has definitely been a key for the Railers as they came into Saturday just nine away from the tournament record for 3s made. After another score on a putback by Swaine, the Railers went on an 8-0 run. Baskets from Gavin Block and Adam Conrady started the run, while senior Max Cook finished the run with his ability to get to the basket. Cook used a nice spin move for the first layup, then balanced it out by using the same move on the other side of the basket.

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It was good to see Cook driving, something the coaches would like to see more of. "He did a nice job, but it's something he should be doing every game. He has that ability," coach Neil Alexander said.

A basket by Rochester cut the Lincoln lead to seven, 13-6, at the end of the first quarter.

Cook continued his aggressiveness to the basket as he was fouled and converted both free throws to start the second quarter. Conrady remained a threat from 17 feet as he hit two more baseline jumpers.

"That's his shot, about 15 to 17 feet away," Alexander said. "He had a good game, but all the kids played well today."

Up 19-8, Joey Olden hit from 15 feet to begin his portion of the show. Olden sandwiched a pair of 3s around a Block free throw, the second the result of a pass out after Bowlby ran over a Rocket in the lane with no call. Olden then scored on a layup after a steal, and the close game suddenly was becoming out of hand with the Railers (18-2, 7-1) up 30-10.

Rochester was able to score the final four points of the half to cut the game to just 16, but it was obvious the Railers were in control.

Block started the third with a 3-pointer, and after a Rochester score, Cook and Block each scored to extend the lead to 37-17. As the third quarter went on, Lincoln was able to slowly stretch the lead out, and after 3s from Cook and Block, the Railers held a 44-23 lead after three.

With most of the regulars on the bench, the defense did not rest for the Railers, holding Rochester scoreless over the last eight minutes. With the title matchup looming later in the night, it was good to get some rest for those who would be logging heavy minutes against Glenwood. Bowlby and Olden did get a final basket each before checking out; Olden's a baseline drive resulting in a nice reverse layup. The Railers ended their scoring with free throws from Payton Ebelherr and Austin Krusz, while Aron Hopp and Will Cook got their only baskets of the night.

Olden and Block led the way with 12 each, while Max Cook joined in with 11. Bowlby had seven, with Conrady adding six. Will Cook and Hopp chipped in with two each, with Krusz and Ebelherr each adding a free throw.

So now, the Railers get to rest. No game until Friday night, when it is back to Roy S. Anderson and a matchup with SHG. Sophomores get started at 6, with the varsity scheduled at 7:30.

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LINCOLN (54)

Olden 5 0-0 12, Block 4 2-4 12, M.Cook 4 2-2 11, Bowlby 3 0-1 7, Conrady 3 0-0 6, W.Cook 1 0-0 2, Hopp 1 0-0 2, Ebelherr 0 1-2 1, Krusz 0 1-2 1, Horchem 0 0-0 0, Dunovsky 0 0-0 0, Fry 0 0-0 0, Aeilts 0 0-0 0. Team 21 6-11 54. 3-point field goals 6 (Block 2, Olden 2, Bowlby, M.Cook).

ROCHESTER (23)

Swaine 10, Handlin 10, Sembell 2, Stallworth 1. Team 10 1-6 23. 3-point field goals 2 (Handlin 2).

Lincoln 13-17-14-10 54
Rochester 6-8-9-0 23

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LINCOLN (53)

Block 7 4-4 20, M.Cook 4 0-1 8, Horchem 2 0-0 6, Ebelherr 2 2-2 6, Olden 2 0-0 5, W.Cook 2 0-0 5, Bowlby 1 0-0 3, Conrady 0 0-0 0, Krusz 0 0-0 0, Dunovsky 0 0-0 0, Hopp 0 0-0 0. Team 20 6-7 53. 3-point field goals 7 (Block 2, Horchem 2, Olden, Bowlby, W.Cook).

GLENWOOD (31)

Allen 13, Anderson 6, Parriott 5, Harper 5, Hunt 2. Team 12 5-5 31. 3-point field goals 2 (Allen, Parriott).

Lincoln 14-14-12-13 53
Glenwood 4-6-12-9 31

[By JEFF BENJAMIN]

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