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[December 04, 2016]  OK, I’ve got one for you.

What do you get when you cross a team that is off to a 4-1 start with a team that has had less than three practices? Well, it may sound like the setup to a joke, but it certainly was no laughing matter for Rochester. The Rockets, just a week removed from winning another state title in football, are coming to the basketball party a bit late and it definitely showed on Saturday as Lincoln dominated 46-19 in the Central State Eight conference opener from both teams.

As the teams took the court to open the 24th season for the CS8 at the Springfield Clinic Sports Medicine Capital City Showcase at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, Lincoln came into the contest hoping to wash away the debris left by the 21 point loss at the hands of Danville in the final of last week’s Thanksgiving Tournament. Rochester, on the other hand, was just trying to get their basketball legs under them.

Lincoln took the court to open a CS8 season for the final time and behind the dynamic duo of senior Bryson Kirby and junior Isaiah Bowers, the Railers were really never in trouble. The twosome combined for 23 points and six of the season high nine three with Kirby being named the player of the game with his game high 12 points. For Lincoln, at least for me, the word to describe Saturday was confidence.

“Well, this is a team that has had less than three practices and we wanted to come out and put the pressure on them,” Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said after career win number 766. “We looked a lot better because we executed our offense better, hit some shots, which certainly helps, and played pretty well on defense.”

Led by a much crisper offensive execution and stifling defense, three-pointers from Bowers, Kirby, and Nolan Hullinger jump started the Railers out to a 9-0 lead. Rochester was completely out of sync as it tried to find any opening in the Lincoln defense. However, the Rockets committed 17 turnovers in the game and the Railers seemed in control from the opening tip. It wasn’t until the 2:19 mark of the first quarter that Rochester got on the board thanks to a corner three from football standout Collin Stallworth. Lincoln looked to extend the lead at the end of the first but shots by Kirby and Bowers were both blocked and the Railers would settle for taking a six point lead into the second quarter.

Ben Grunder came off the bench to start the second quarter scoring with a reverse layup, Lincoln’s first production inside the arc. After another Stallworth basket, the Railers went on an 11-2 run to push to a 22-7 lead. During the run, early points came out of the hands of Bowers, not scoring but finding open teammates. A pass down low to Drew Bacon led to a score and a steal where Bowers drove the length of the court, stopped in the lane, and found a wide open Grunder continued the run. Again, Stallworth for Rochester made it 16-7 only to see Kirby hit not one, but two, threes from deep in the left corner and the margin was now at 15. For Rochester, finally with 30 seconds to go, someone named other than Stallworth scored, a three from Adam Schwartz, making Lincoln’s advantage at intermission 15 points, up 22-7.

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In games where there is a reasonable thought that one team should win, when that team leads, there is a chance for a brief let down. For the third quarter, the Railers (5-1) wanted no part of that, crushing any hopes that Rochester may have had to come back. During the first half, Lincoln scored 22 points. In the third, the Railers matched that by defusing the Rockets with a 22-3 quarter. The Lincoln scoring started on a three point play from point guard Titus Cannon on a drive to the basket. After a score from Bacon, Kirby came away with a steal and drove the left side of the lane. Seeing an open Cannon, Kirby kicked it over but Cannon did not have a good look so he returned the favor to Kirby who laid it in and was fouled. After the made free throw, another three from Hullinger cemented that the rout was on with the Railers up 33-10.

Jayden Reed got Rochester’s only field goal of the quarter, a three that calmed the storm a bit, but did not stop it. The Railers ended the quarter with two more threes from Bowers and another from Tate Sloan. The Lincoln scoring stopped with a basket from Cannon, getting the only basket for the Railers in the fourth, but the game was no longer in doubt. Rochester did score the game’s final six points, but it didn’t prevent Lincoln from posting their best defensive effort of the young season, besting the 23 points allowed to Limestone last week. All in all, the defense has been ahead of the offense as, so far, the Railers have held their opponents to single digit scoring in 17 of the 24 quarters. If you take out the Danville game, that stat is 20 of 24.

“I thought we played really well today. It wasn’t perfect, there are some things to work on,” Alexander said. “Next game we will have to be better because Jacksonville will be tough. For this team, they have to almost be perfect .”

As mentioned, Lincoln was led by Kirby’s 12 and the 11 from Bowers. Hullinger added six points, with Cannon and Grunder each scoring five. Bacon chipped in with four, while Sloan contributed three.

Lincoln’s next contest is Friday night as the Railers will make the trip over to the Bowl in Jacksonville. Game time is set for 730 pm. I’m not sure if Lincoln will be able to squeeze in the Crimsons once the teams are in different conferences but I sure hope so. I’ve have said many times that other that Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium, my favorite venue to watch a game from is the Bowl.

Let’s hope Lincoln and the Railer Nation will be able to stir things up on Friday.


Kirby 4 1-1 12, Bowers 3 2-2 11, Hullinger 2 0-0 6, Cannon 2 1-1 5, Grunder 2 1-2 5, Bacon 2 0-0 4, Sloan 1 0-0 3, Morris 0 0-0 0, Combs 0 0-0 0, Birnbaum 0 0-0 0, Holliday 0 0-0 0, Dewberry 0 0-0 0. TEAM 16 5-6 46. 3pt FG - 9 (Kirby 3, Bowers 3, Hullinger 2, Sloan).


Stallworth 7, Schwartz 5, Reed 3, Dyer 2, Norris 2. TEAM 7 2-2 19. 3pt FG – 3 (Schwartz, Stallworth, Reed).

LCHS 9-13-22-2 46
ROCHESTER 3-7-3-6 19

[Jeff Benjamin]

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