Thursday, March 13, 2014
 
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If you're going to be Sweet, why not be Elite?

Railers prove to be too much for Chatham Glenwood

By Jeff Benjamin

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[March 13, 2014]  MATTOON One year ago, the sectional semifinal matchup between Lincoln and Glenwood came down to the last shot. On Wednesday night, the Railers saw to it that there would be no repeat performance.

Playing like the team that had won 30 games and climbed to the top of the Class 3A poll, the Lincoln Railers advanced to the Sweet 16 and Friday night's sectional final with a convincing 48-29 win over Glenwood. The win improves their record to 31-2 and sets up a rematch with Champaign Central, the only team to walk into Roy S. Anderson this season and knock off the Railers.

Facing the Titans for the third time this season, the Railers had 22- and 10-point wins under their belts against Chatham coach Todd Blakeman's squad. Going into the contest, it is a given that the Glenwood offensive game plan will revolve around Texas A&M recruit Peyton Allen. For the Railers, they have proven throughout the course of this season that any number of Lincoln players can be "that guy" on any given night. Coach Blakeman decided to try to confuse the Railers.

Starting the game against a Glenwood zone defense, the Railers jumped out early as Gavin Block found an opening down the lane and dished to a wide-open Edward Bowlby. The basket was the start of a solid scoring night for the senior. Tyler Horchem drained the first of Lincoln's nine 3s on the night from the left corner, and after Joey Olden's layup went in after a steal, Blakeman had no choice but to take a timeout after the Railers had jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead.

After the timeout, Glenwood tried to go with a box and one, with Block being guarded man-to-man.

Out-of-the-ordinary defenses were part of the preparations for the Railers.

"We actually worked on something like this," Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said. "We didn't exactly plan for the box and one, but we thought there was a good chance they would run a triangle and two. There's a lot of things you can do with the box and one."

After Allen finally got the Titans (20-12) on the board, Horchem answered with his second 3 of the night. Glenwood tried to hang close, all on the shoulders of Allen, who scored all of the Titan points in the first quarter. His 3 cut the lead in half at 10-5. Max Cook, who played a fantastic game at the point guard spot, hit from 3-point range as Lincoln jumped back up by eight. Since Glenwood's defense was set up to prevent Block from getting the ball in any offensive set, the junior decided to take matters into his own hands as his offensive rebound and putback of a Lincoln miss gave the Railers a 10-point lead at 15-5.

Up 15-8 to start the second, the Railers went through the one part of the game when it seemed Glenwood was finding their legs and getting back into the game. A 5-0 run to start the quarter brought the Titans to within just two, but it was as close as the challengers would get the remainder of the evening. Block started the spurt with a jumper off a dribble at the top of the key, and Will Cook came through with his usual big 3-pointer. Bowlby ended the 7-0 run on a layup off a nice no-look pass from the baseline by Payton Ebelherr. As quickly as the margin had been cut to two, Lincoln was now back up by nine at 22-13. Glenwood scored the half's final points, and the Railers headed to halftime with a seven-point lead, up 22-15.

The Titans played the Railers even on the scoreboard in the second quarter, but that can still be viewed as a win, as Allen was held scoreless in the quarter. Even though there was no shot he wasn't willing to take, the Railer defense certainly kept tabs on Allen, and the pressure took its toll on him on both ends of the court. Throughout much of the game, Allen was found "guarding" a Railer, but not within 10 or 12 feet, allowing him to rest as much as possible.

Ethan Hunt pulled Glenwood to within four as he hit his second 3 of the game, and Bowlby stretched it back to six after another nice assist from Max Cook. After a Titan basket put the lead back to four, Block's drive to the basket and Max Cook's layup after a steal pushed the Lincoln lead to eight at 28-20. As much as Glenwood tried to hang around, it was starting to become clear that this Lincoln team had too much firepower, something their opponents for Friday night saw firsthand, as the Maroons from Champaign Central were in the stands for much of the game at Mattoon.

Horchem's 3 put Lincoln up 31-22, and after a Titan score, Max Cook continued his solid night with another 3, a shot that allowed him to move into 10th place all-time for 3-pointers in school history. As the Railers tried to run the clock down at the end of the third quarter, Glenwood was able to come up with a steal, only to run into some issues at half-court. As the ball came loose thanks to the Railer defense, Block grabbed the ball and tossed one toward the basket. His half-court heave bounced perfectly off the backboard and into the basket as time expired, sending the Railer Nation in attendance into a frenzy.

[to top of second column]

Honesty compels me to mention that those listening to our broadcast "might" have noticed a little excitement from the announcers. No apologies for that.

Block's 3 is one of those shots that, if you're the other team trying to do anything to get back in the game, makes you think that tonight may not be your night. His 3 turned what could have been the Titans within 10, instead showing the Railers up 37-24.

The 3s kept on falling, and a huge cheer went up with Lincoln's next make as Bowlby hit his first 3 since Moline. Bowlby may have been struggling from the outside but has certainly made his presence known in other ways. However, it sure is nice to see him back in the groove from outside as he hit another from long range to put Lincoln up 44-24. Bowlby then decided to go old school for the 3-point play as he converted the free throw after a make on a drive to the hoop, again after a nice look from Ebelherr. A free throw from Olden ended the Lincoln scoring, and a pair of baskets from Glenwood only changed the score, not the outcome, as the Railers stood tall with the 48-29 victory.

The experts, of which I am not one, will tell you defense wins championships. Coach Alexander was pleased with his on Wednesday night.

"I thought our defense played well. Rebounding, I don't remember any times where they got more than one shot," Alexander said. "We will have our hands full on Friday night. We'll have to eat our Wheaties between now and then. But, we survived to advance, and this time of year, that's all you can ask for."

Good balance in scoring from the starters as Bowlby with 15 was the only Railer in double figures, while Max Cook, Horchem and Block all finished with nine. Olden and Ebelherr each added three.

Now, their attention can turn to the sectional final on Friday night against Champaign Central. When the Railers lost to them in mid-January, Lincoln was one day removed from falling to Lanphier. Not an excuse for their mental state, just a fact. After that game, coach Alexander alluded to the possibility that even if the Railers had beaten Lanphier, there was still the chance of a letdown.

The ticket information for Friday night was given by the PA announcer at Mattoon. According to the announcement, game time is set for 7 p.m. and tickets will be on sale Thursday at the school office from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and again from 6:30 to 7:30 Thursday night. Tickets are $5 and are general admission. Any questions or concerns regarding the tickets can be addressed to Pat Zurkammer at 732-4131, ext. 226, or by email at pzurkammer@lchs.k12.il.us.

I guess if you're going to be Sweet, why not be Elite?

___

LINCOLN (48)

Bowlby 6-10 1-1 15, M.Cook 3-6 1-2 9, Block 4-6 0-2 9, Horchem 3-5 0-0 9, Olden 1-1 1-2 3, W.Cook 1-3 0-0 3, Ebelherr 0-1 0-0 0, Krusz 0-0 0-0 0, Conrady 0-2 0-0 0, Perry 0-0 0-0 0, Dunovsky 0-0 0-0 0. Team 18-34 3-7 48. 3-point field goals 9-21 (Horchem 3-5, M.Cook 2-5, Bowlby 2-6, Block 1-2, W.Cook 1-3)

GLENWOOD (29)

Allen 12, Hunt 6, Anderson 4, Matchuny 3, Harper 2, Mizera 2. Team 12-34 0-1 29. 3-point field goals 5-19 (Allen 2, Hunt 2, Matchuny).

LCHS       15-7-15-11  48
Glenwood    8-7-9-5     29

[By JEFF BENJAMIN]

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