Seniors Gavin Block and Will Cook combined for 27 of Lincoln’s 31
second half points to erase an eleven point deficit. After a first
half where there was continued stagnation on offense, the second
sixteen minutes saw more aggressive play and more of an effort by
Block to be involved.
“I’m not saying he (Block) has to shoot everytime,” Coach Neil
Alexander said after the game, “but I thought there were some open
looks he could have taken in the first half. He’s not going to get
many open ones, so he needs to take them when he can.” Block’s 29
points were game-high and just one point shy of his career high.
During one stretch spanning the latter stages of the second quarter
and much of the third, Block scored 16 straight points for Lincoln.
On a night where the first two games were decided by just one point,
the early part of the nightcap seemed to indicate another close one
was on the docket. As in the first two contests, the Railers jumped
to an early 4-0 lead on a back door layup by Payton Ebelherr and a
pair of free throws from Block. Defensively, the energy was much
better than Wednesday night, but the tip-aways and blocks were still
ending up in the hands of Centennial, usually converted into points.
A three from Nick Finke got the Chargers on the board, only to have
Aron Hopp, who played another solid game, answer from behind the arc
and put the Railers lead to 7-3.
After the Chargers tied the game at seven, a Block lay-in put
Lincoln back on top. Quin Nottingham, on his way to leading
Centennial on the night with 17, knotted the game at nine. It was
Hopp again, this time banking one off the glass from in the lane, to
give Lincoln the lead, something that they would not have again
until the fourth quarter.
Centennial scored the next five points to take the lead at 14-11,
only to see the Railers run the clock down for the final possession
of the first with Will Cook hitting his first shot on the night, a
three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game at 14. However, an 8-0
run by Centennial to start the second left a bit of uneasiness in
the air at Roy S. Anderson as the Chargers were up 22-14. On
offense, the Railers spent a lot of time looking to one another,
waiting for someone else to make a play, a product that could be
chalked up to inexperience.
“You’ve got to remember Gavin is the only one that has really logged
minutes,” Alexander reminded Railer Nation. “A couple of others
played some, but for the most part this is the first real taste of
action.” After Block’s drive ended the run, the teams traded scores
to put the score at 26-20 in favor of the visitors. Again, it was
Coach Tim Lavin’s bunch to run off five in a row to take their
largest lead of the night at eleven. Block sank a pair of free
throws, a part of the game that would very important at the end of
the game, to put the Railer deficit at nine at the half.
The third quarter featured a much less passive Block who hit a three
and a layup to bring the Railers to within seven at 34-27. After a
steal found Block open at the top of the key, the senior hesitated
and passed on the shot, kicked it to a teammate, but got it back and
did not hesitate on the second opportunity, knocking down his second
three of the night and pulling Lincoln within four. In a similar
fashion to Wednesday night’s loss to Mahomet –Seymour, the Railers
were able to put a little more pressure on the defense, but unable
to put together defensive stops of their own. Centennial scored six
of the game’s next eight points to get back out to a 40-32
Ready for some Railer basketball? Centennial was not. In Railer form
of old, Lincoln used a 19-4 run fueled by tough defense, good
shooting, and clutch free throw shooting to take the lead. After a
basket from Block, Cook scored on a layup off a steal and then a
drive down the lane to pull the Railers within a pair at 40-38. A
basket by Anthony Martin off a nice exterior fee slowed the Railers
just a bit, but another drive by Cook with two seconds left in the
quarter left Lincoln down 42-40 heading to the fourth quarter.
[to top of second column]
Early in the first quarter, it was Hopp that gave Lincoln a lead at 11-9.
Lincoln went back to the reliable junior to tie the game on a nice feed
from Ebelherr at the 6:24 mark and returned to him to put Lincoln back
in front with 4:41 left and the Railers up 44-42. Nottingham brought the
game back to even at 44. Unfortunately, Lincoln would not have Hopp on
the floor at the end of the game. After Block had hit a three, and then
two free throws at the 1:10 mark, Hopp caught the wrong end of an elbow
from Steven Lee as he went back up on a rebound. No malicious intent,
just wrong place, wrong time. Lee was whistled for the offensive foul,
while Hopp found himself under the Centennial basket and needing
attention from the Lincoln training staff. Coach Alexander went on the
court to check on him and when the coach headed back to the bench, you
could see a bit of a smile, so things seemed to be OK. After the game,
Alexander said there was a good chance he would need some stitches but
“if I know Hopp, he’ll be here tomorrow.”
The drama of the night was not over even when Cook hit a pair of free
throws with 44.4 left, making the advantage 51-44, the biggest Lincoln
lead of the night. Tim Finke answered with a three and when Block made
only one of two free throws, the Railer lead was only 52-47 with 17
seconds to go. Finke again hit a three and now it was down to a one
possession game at 52-50. Block went to the line with 2.9 seconds to go,
knowing both free throws would cement the win away. After missing the
first, Block hit the second, leaving open the possibility for Centennial
to send the game into overtime with a three-pointer. After a timeout,
Centennial’s chances never got off the ground after a steal by Cook in
front of the Lincoln bench and finally, this one was in the win column.
Whewww! You get the feeling a lot of the Railer games are going to be
like this. “Don’t give up on this team yet,” Alexander said. “This team
is going to get better and tonight shows what they can do.”
Only four players hit the scoring column for the Railers. Block (29)
and Cook (13) were in double figures while Hopp added nine and Ebelherr
scored an early basket.
A full day of basketball is set for Saturday with two sessions on the
final day of the Eaton Electrical Round Robin Tournament. Friday night
also saw Morton best Danville 57-56 while Mahomet survived Cahokia
44-43. After the first three games, the standings show Mahomet on top at
3-0, Lincoln and Centennial both at 2-1, Cahokia and Morton are 1-2,
with Danville winless at 0-3.
Lincoln will be back in action first at 11:30 against Cahokia and then
in the nightcap against Morton at 8:00. If you haven’t had a chance to
see this Railer team yet, Saturday would be a great day for basketball
at Roy S. Anderson.
One final note – best wishes to former Railer standout Nathaniel Smith.
The senior at Loras College was injured during the Duhawks’ first game
of the season a couple of weeks ago. Due to the injury, Smitty is facing
surgery Saturday morning. I, as I am sure the rest of Railer Nation,
wish him all the best during the surgery and recovery.
Block 9 8-10 29, Cook 5 2-2 13, Hopp 4 0-0 9, Ebelherr 1 0-0 2, Perry 0
0-0 0, Aeilts 0 0-0 0, Bowers 0 0-0 0. TEAM 19 10-12 53. 3-point FG 5
(Block 3, Cook, Hopp).
Nottingham 17, T.Finke 10, Howard 6, Lee 6, N. Finke 6, Sago 3, Martin
2. TEAM 16 8-9 50. 3-point FG 6 (Howard 2, T.Finke 2, Nottingham,
LCHS 14-8-18-13 53
CENTENNIAL 14-17-11-8 50