Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Sports News

'I guess Lincoln was watching over the Railers tonight'

With less than 5 seconds left, Bowlby secures the win for the Railers

By Jeff Benjamin

Send a link to a friend  Share

[March 19, 2014]  SPRINGFIELD When Lincoln senior Edward Bowlby connected for a 3-pointer midway through the first quarter of Tuesday night's supersectional game in Springfield, the basket broke the Illinois state record for 3-pointers made by a team in a season (previously held the 2004-05 Lincoln squad). When Bowlby sits down to tell his grandkids about the contest with Cahokia, it won't be that shot that leads the story.

Bowlby sank a pair of free throws with 4.6 seconds left and the Railer defense held one more time, defeating Cahokia 40-37 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center to secure the first boys basketball trophy at the state level since a fourth-place finish in 1980. Lincoln, now 33-2, matching the school record for wins in a season, will play in the Class 3A Final Four on Friday at Peoria's Carver Arena. Game time is set for 12:15 as they take on Rockford Lutheran.

With less than a minute to go in the game, Cahokia's Darius Austin hit a 3-pointer to put the Comanches up 37-36. After a Lincoln timeout, Gavin Block took the ball at the free-throw line, turned and headed down the lane, where he was fouled. His free throws with 27 seconds remaining put Lincoln on top to stay. Still, that much time on the clock allowed Cahokia a chance to hold for the last shot. After running the clock down, Austin was able to find DeVonte Williams down low, but he fumbled it just enough to allow the Railer defense to collapse on him and come away with the ball. When the dust had settled, the ball was safely in the arms of Bowlby, who was fouled and headed to the line.

It was a game that was easily one of the best basketball games I have seen. With everything that was on the line, both teams showed up and played as well as they could have. Fortunately for Railer Nation, the team in green came out on top. A team that Lincoln had defeated earlier in the season was going to do what they could to change the results.

"Give them credit, they were a great team tonight," Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said. "They really closed out on our shooters, didn't let us get our feet set. It was a great game plan."

Free throws were one of the reasons the Railers won this one. Going 16 of 18 as a team, including 13 for 14 in the second half, Lincoln outscored Cahokia 22-20 despite making only three field goals in the final 16 minutes. Neither team was able to pull away from the other, with Lincoln enjoying their largest lead of six at 33-27, while the Comanches' biggest margin was just two (20-18). Again, simply put, it was a great game.

Walking into the PCCC to a standing ovation, the Railers passed by a throng of Railer fans. It was just the beginning of the showing of Railer love by the fans who made the trip down Interstate 55 and from all over, even as far as Utah. Probably no one imagined the next 32 minutes would feature 12 lead changes and six ties in a game that was not decided until the final shot from Cahokia missed the mark.

After Block got the Railers on the board with a free throw, Cahokia answered with a basket from Austin. Bowlby's big night, leading the scorers with 19 points, started by converting an alley-oop pass to put Lincoln up 3-2. Cahokia was able to take advantage of a Railer miss and lack of getting someone back on defense as Carleton Rivers Jr. was able to sneak behind the defense and put the Comanches up with a dunk. Bowlby continued his hot start by draining a 3, the 287th made by the Railers this season, and Lincoln went back up 6-4. After Cahokia tied the game, it was Bowlby again for 3. The senior, who led the team in made 3s coming into the game, was able to make the 3s despite having to alter his shot, using a higher arc as he shot over the outstretched arms of the taller Cahokia defenders.

The first quarter ended with Lincoln up 11-7. Cahokia (24-9) used a quick 5-0 run to take the lead back at 12-11 when Montez Crumble hit the first of his two 3s on the night. The third 3 from Bowlby put Lincoln back up 14-12, but the first hold-your-breath moment of the night came with 3:15 to go in the first half as Block picked up his second foul. The junior headed to the bench as the Railers would try to figure out how to deal with having their leading scorer on the pines the rest of the half.

Joey Olden stepped up and dropped a 17-footer to extend the lead to four at 16-12. Cahokia took advantage of Block being out, scoring five in a row including a 3 after a Railer turnover, that gave them the lead back at 17-16. After the ball was knocked out of bounds by Cahokia, coach Alexander took the opportunity to get Block in on the offensive end and was rewarded as Block's off-balance floater off the glass as the buzzer sounded gave the lead back to Lincoln at 18-17.

To start the second half, Cahokia took the momentum back, going up 20-18. Lincoln knotted the game at 20 as Payton Ebelherr found Block on the baseline for an easy 2. Cahokia took the last lead they would enjoy until the game's last minute on a free throw, caused by Olden's third foul with less than three minutes left in the quarter. But, as had been the script for the night, it was back to Bowlby, whose 3 from the left corner swung the game back to Lincoln 23-21. If it seemed like the senior had a good night, you'd be right, as Bowlby was a perfect 6 for 6 on the night, including making all four of his 3-point attempts.

[to top of second column]

After the Comanches tied the game at 23, the parade to the free-throw line by the Railers began as Block made both free throws. After Tarkus Ferguson was able to convert only one of three throws after being fouled by Bowlby, the Railers headed to the fourth quarter with the smallest of leads, up 25-24. The Lincoln defense ramped it up a notch as a steal by Olden led to Max Cook getting fouled on a drive to the basket. Cook made both free throws for his only points of the night, but his impact was felt elsewhere.

"Max didn't have the best scoring night," Alexander said, "but he handled the ball for us against some tough defense and got our guys in the right spot."

Cahokia, however, would just not go away. The Comanches tied the game at 27 before the Railers went on their best run of the night. As Railer Nation knows, Lincoln has used runs of 15-plus to nothing to put games away throughout the season. For an idea of how good Cahokia was on Tuesday night, the best Lincoln could do was six in a row. Block made two free throws after being fouled going to the basket after making a great cut to the basket and getting the pass from Ebelherr. Lincoln's last basket of the night came from Bowlby, who was open underneath and received a no-look pass from Block. Two more free throws from Block, who was 11 of 12 on the night, pushed the Lincoln lead to 33-27 with 4:20 left in the game.

Again, the Comanches were not going to let the Railers begin their celebration early. A 7-1 run by Cahokia tied the game again, the final time the score would be even, at 34. Block's two free throws put Lincoln back up by two, while Austin's 3 gave Cahokia their final lead of the night and set up Block and Bowlby's heroics from the free-throw line and on the defensive end.

Only four players scored for the Railers on Tuesday night, with Bowlby scoring 19 and Block adding 17. Olden and Max Cook each added two.

So, now, it's on to Peoria and the Final Four. Lincoln's opponent, Rockford Lutheran, was a 71-60 winner over Peoria Notre Dame.

As of leaving the PCCC, ticket information was not yet available. Check in with LDN to keep updated on the information for Friday afternoon's game in Peoria. Lincoln's journey begins on Thursday night as Bryson Kirby will compete in the 3-point showdown.

In closing on this one, I have to give credit to my daughter, Carrie. As we walked out of the PCCC, her attention was drawn to the top of the hotel in view, looking over the parking garage. What caught her attention? A well-lit sign of Abraham Lincoln at the top of the hotel. Her thought: "I guess Lincoln was watching over the Railers tonight."

You're right, Carrie. Lincoln was. Although, I'm not sure we can get that sign to Peoria. Oh well, enough of Lincoln will be there to more than make up for it.

Go, Railers!



Bowlby 6-6 3-4 19, Block 3-7 11-12 17, M.Cook 0-5 2-2 2, Olden 1-3 0-0 2, Horchem 0-1 0-0 0, Ebelherr 0-1 0-0 0, W.Cook 0-2 0-0 0, Conrady 0-0 0-0 0. Team 10-25 16-18 40. 3-point field goals 4-12 (Bowlby 4-4, Block 0-2, W.Cook 0-2, M.Cook 0-1, Olden 0-1, Horchem 0-1, Ebelherr 0-1).


Austin 12, Crumble 10, Rivers 9, Hickman 3, Ferguson 3. Team 14-29 4-8 37. 3-point field goals 5-12 (Crumble 2, Rivers 2, Austin).

LCHS      11-7-7-15   40
Cahokia    7-10-7-13  37


Click here to respond to this article.

Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles

< Sports index

Back to top