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[December 22, 2016]  After the first eight minutes Wednesday night at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium, the Railers were on pace to score over 100 points and win by eighty. Now, in most cases, the small sample size of just one quarter can skew the perception of a game. Unfortunately, the Railers did not carry over their first quarter play. It was enough to come away with a 55-33 win over the Senators, but there was a definite sour taste left from the final three quarters.

“Well, we played tonight like we practice. We start out well and then just lose our focus,” Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said after the game. “We can’t be a good team until we figure out how to play 32 quality minutes. I don’t want to keep harping on it but 32 minutes is the key.”

Over the final three quarters, the Railers outscored Springfield by only two. But, it was in the game’s first eight minutes that the contest was decided. After being postponed from Friday due to the wintry mix that affected travel across Central Illinois, Lincoln picked up where they left off 12 days ago with the surprising win over Jacksonville. The first quarter was dominated by the outside shooting of the Railers as they connected for six of their season high ten threes. A three each from Drew Bacon, Bryson Kirby, and Nolan Hullinger allowed Lincoln to explode out to a quick 11-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game, forcing Springfield to take not one, but two timeouts to try to halt the Lincoln start.

Once the outside game got Lincoln the early lead, Titus Cannon scored on consecutive possessions to build a 15-0 lead before Springfield got on the board thanks to an offensive rebound with just over three minutes left in the first quarter. A basket from Ben Grunder preceded the second of three Hullinger threes to extend the advantage to 20-2.

Springfield (2-8, 1-4) tried to find a little more rhythm offensively but the Lincoln defense made life very difficult for the visitors. More threes from Kirby and Hullinger allowed the Railers to dash out to a 20 point lead after one, 26-6. The offensive onslaught continued in the early portion of the second quarter. The outside shooting of Hullinger paid off for Bacon as Hullinger held the ball just outside the three point line. With Springfield defenders coming from all directions, Bacon cut to the basket and scored after taking the pass from Hullinger. Lincoln climbed to their largest lead of the night when Grunder struck from outside, putting the Railers up 31-6.

From there, Lincoln seemed to put it in cruise control and that did not set well with the coaching staff. “We have to play with intensity and passion for 32 minutes, as a team,” Alexander said. “I would almost rather lose but play 32 tough minutes than play the way we did tonight.”

Springfield did go on a mini 7-0 run but fittingly, the Lincoln scoring in the half ended on another three from Kirby and the Railers took a 34-13 lead into the locker room. The Railers had played well from ahead earlier in the season, winning the previous five games in which they lead at the break.

The start of the second half was sloppy, with each team turning it over or taking ill-advised shots for the first few minutes. It seemed like a scrimmage had broken out in the middle of the game. There wasn’t much energy on the court and that transferred to the crowd. Kirby picked up where he left off in the first half with two more threes, giving him five for the game, tying his career high for threes in a game. His last one in the third pushed Lincoln’s lead to 43-21.

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The fourth quarter was mop up time. The only points from the starters for the Railers were free throws from Bacon and Isaiah Bowers. The leading scorer for Lincoln coming in, with an average of almost 16 points a game, Bowers was held to just two free throws on the evening. The junior did contribute with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals but the scoring was taken care of by other Railers on this night. Lincoln got bench scoring from Tate Sloan, Zach Morris, and Colton Holliday. Again, this was a game that was decided early. However, the manner in which Springfield forced Lincoln (7-1, 3-0) to play poorly was on the mind of Coach Alexander, who was already looking ahead to the holiday tournament in Collinsville.

“If we are fortunate to get by Urbana, and they’ve scored 100 points in a game and also beaten Danville (the only team to beat Lincoln this year), we get Edwardsville and they were here watching tonight. They saw how we handle pressure and if you think Springfield brought pressure, Edwardsville will really bring it.”

Kirby led the way with 15 points, all on threes. Bacon finished with 11 with Hullinger notching a career high of nine points. Grunder added five with Cannon and Sloan each scoring four. Morris had a late three points, while Bowers and Holliday finished with two.

Lincoln remains one of only three unbeatens in the Central State Eight but they will be tested on Thursday night when a much improved SHG squad comes to town. If you like basketball, head over to Roy S. Anderson for four games against the Cyclones. At 4:00, the boys’ sophomore squad will play in the front gym with the girls’ teams playing in the back gym. At 5:30, the Lady Railers will take the court in the front gym with the boys varsity in the nightcap scheduled for 7:00.


Kirby 5 0-0 15, Bacon 3 4-5 11, Hullinger 3 0-0 9, Grunder 2 0-0 5, Cannon 2 0-0 4, Sloan 2 0-0 4, Morris 1 1-1 3, Bowers 0 2-4 2, Holliday 1 0-0 2, Birnbaum 0 0-0 0, Combs 0 0-0 0. TEAM 19 7-10 55. 3pt FG 10 (Kirby 5, Hullinger 3, Bacon, Grunder).


Minder 10, Washington 6, Reiser 5, Hawkins 4, Harris 3, Small 2, Hughes 2, Jackson 1. TEAM 14 2-5 33. 3pt FG 3 (Minder, Harris, Reiser).

LCHS 26-8-9-12 55
SPRINGFIELD 6-7-8-12 33

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