Defense leads Lincoln to first Apollo win

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[December 02, 2017]  It has been a few years since the Lincoln Railers took on Taylorville with an asterisk on the schedule indicating a conference game. During their battles in the CS8, the Railers had the Tornadoes’ number on most occasions. Even though the conference banners and the logo on the floor are different, the scoreboard showed a result that seemed quite familiar.

Led by the offense of senior Isaiah Bowers and a much improved Railer defense, Lincoln notched their first win in the Apollo Conference with a dominating 56-21 win over the visiting Tornadoes. The win evens the Lincoln conference mark at 1-1 with an overall record of 4-2. Sometimes the stats of a game can be a bit misleading but Friday night’s tallies told the story.

Simply put, the Railers had Taylorville’s number in just about every way. Let’s start with Bowers outscoring Taylorville 25-21. The senior reached double figures in the first quarter as the Railers jumped out to a 12-4 advantage. The Tornadoes made 5 of 19 from the floor, including just one, yes, just one shot from inside the three-point line on their way to scoring just seven points in the second half. By himself, Bowers shot 24 times.

The opportunities for the Tornadoes were limited, something that can happen when you are guilty of 25 turnovers. Coming into the game, Taylorville was scoring 66 points a game with lots of scoring from the outside. The Railer defense stepped up to the challenge, holding them to one-third of their norm.

“We did a good job of covering their shooters. When they get comfortable, they are going to be a dangerous team,” Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said. “But, our point guards are the key to our defense and I thought Titus (Cannon) and Tate (Sloan) did a good job. Tate played a great defensive game with his hands and feet.”

From the beginning, the Railers took control putting the first six points on the scoreboard. Bowers scored on a back door pass from Cannon and then a shot off the glass after a steal. Sloan’s dump down pass to Colton Holliday gave the lefty his two for the night. Taylorville didn’t get on the board until the 3:23 mark of the first on a free throw from Justin Wright. The Railers went old school for their next eight points as Bowers and Grunder took over from 15 feet. It may not be the downtown three point shooting of Lincoln teams past, but it count just the same.

“We’ve got a good mid-range game, especially with Ben and Isaiah. Anymore, all you see is someone driving hard to the basket or shooting from 22 feet away,” Alexander said. “It’s a lost art, it’s something we haven’t had in a while but there are points out there to be had.”

Up 14-7, the Railers saw the only spurt of the game from Taylorville as they went on a 9-3 run on two threes from Jack Livingston and three free throws from Jordan Moats after being fouled on a three. After the Tornadoes drew within four, Lincoln kicked in an extra gear. Isaac Dewberry continued his strong play of the bench with a three pointer while Grunder converted a conventional three point play after a drive in the lane. The Railers finished the first half scoring on a three from Cannon as Lincoln claimed a 27-14 lead at the break.

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The second half was more of the same and then some. After a steal by Bowers, Sloan hit a three pointer before Bowers converted a steal into points of his own on a layup. Down 32-14, Taylorville’s Moats scored on a baseline drive, the only two of the game. The scoring continued in bunches for Lincoln as Bowers hit a three after fighting for an offensive rebound to keep the possession for Lincoln. Cannon showed aggressiveness, getting to the lane and drawing the foul. His three point play pushed the Lincoln advantage to 38-16. Bowers, who came in averaging 16 a game, scored the quarter’s final points on another 15-footer and a layup after a nifty spin move.

Lincoln carried a 42-19 margin into the fourth as Taylorville seemed completely out of sync on offense. Jermaine Hamlin, who came off the bench for the first time this season, played solid minutes, especially on defense, and started the fourth quarter scoring with a lay in off the glass. Grunder hit a three to stretch the lead to 47-19. Bowers ended his night in the same fashion as he started it, scoring on a back door play, this time on a pass from Sloan.

Hamlin hit three of five from the line while two Railers, Kaden Froebe and Kameron Whiteman, scored their first varsity points as Railers to reach the final of 56-21.

This game seemed more like the Railers of old, especially on defense. I know a lot of folks enjoy the scoring, but I have always been a fan of defense and some of the performance put forth by Lincoln the past have been a joy to watch. If this Lincoln team can continue this kind of effort, there will be some interesting nights coming up for Railer opponents. “We can’t steal the ball on every possession, but the defense can still battle and I thought that is what we did well tonight, was battle,” Alexander said.

Bowers led the night with his 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 steals with Grunder adding 8 points and three steals. Cannon chipped in with six points, three assists, and three steals, while Hamlin added five. Sloan added four assists and four steals to his three points and Dewberry hit a three pointer while Holliday, Whiteman, and Froebe each scored two.

There is no game on Saturday, but the Railers will be preparing for their first game on the road, a trip to Mattoon on Tuesday night. Game time is set for 7:30pm with the sophomores getting things started at 6. The sophomores got Friday night started on the right note with a 61-46 victory. Whiteman led the way with 19 points while Will Ewald added 16.


Bowers 11 1-4 25, Grunder 3 1-1 8, Cannon 2 1-1 6, Hamlin 1 3-5 5, Sloan 1 0-0 3, Dewberry 1 0-0 3, Holliday 1 0-0 2, Whiteman 1 0-0 2, Froebe 1 0-0 2, Ewald 0 0-0 0, Pozsgai 0 0-0 0. TEAM 22 6-11 56. 3pt FG 6 (Bowers 2, Cannon, Sloan, Grunder, Dewberry).


Moats 8, J. Livingston 6, Bergschneider 3, Ess 3, Wright 1. TEAM 5 7-10 21. 3pt FG 4 (Livingston 2, Bergschneider, Ess).

TAYLORVILLE 4-10-5-2 21
LCHS 12-15-15-14 56

[Jeff Benjamin]

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