Railers recover from horrible first half to claim 3rd at
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[January 16, 2018]
To say the first half of
basketball on Saturday night between Lincoln and Decatur MacArthur
was bad would be, well, an insult to the word bad. The teams
combined to shoot 9 of 38 and commit 20 turnovers with both squads
looking disorganized and out of sorts. It felt like the morning game
of a holiday tournament, not a battle for third place.
However, the Railers corrected their shooting woes in the second
half, connecting on 58 percent of their shots including 5 of 9 from
three point range to claim third place at the 34th annual Prairie
Farms Holiday Classic with a 48-36 victory over the Generals. The
Lincoln defense held true through most of the game but it wasn’t
until the offense caught up that the Railers were able to put some
distance between themselves and MacArthur.
“That first half, that was hard to watch,” Lincoln coach Neil
Alexander said after the game. “Shooting 4 of 25, I mean you could
walk into a gym blindfolded and make 4 out of 25. But, they were
good looks in there. I mean, our first five shots were all good
looks but they just didn’t roll for us.”
Despite all the Lincoln woes, MacArthur didn’t fare much better. The
largest lead the Generals could muster was six and that was after a
6-0 run after Lincoln had tied the game at nine on a three from
Isaiah Bowers, who paced the Railers with 23 points and was the lone
Railer named to the all-tournament team. Lincoln was already down by
five before getting on the board for the first time with two minutes
to go in the first quarter on a 15-footer from Ben Grunder, who
played his most aggressive game of the weekend. “Ben had a rough
night last night against Southeast, but tonight he came out and
played his game, stayed true to what he can do well and you saw the
results,” Alexander said.
The frustrating part about the Railer first half was the apparent
miscommunication and lack of focus. Half way through the season,
with a lineup of seniors, the mistakes being made were not
characteristic. Grunder continued his strong play with a reverse
layup to cut the score to 5-4 before the Generals hit a couple shots
to extend back to 9-5. The Railers continued to be feast or famine
at the free throw line as Bowers drilled his two attempts before
Grunder missed both of his, leaving Lincoln (11-3) down 9-6.
Once Lincoln climbed back to even at 9, MacArthur (5-6) ran off six
in a row, taking a 15-9 lead before Bowers cut the margin four just
before half. Now, sixteen is usually associated with sweet but
Saturday night, Lincoln’s 16 percent shooting was anything but
sweet. The Railers would need a spark, most likely from one of the
seniors. However, the spark came from an unlikely source.
“We told Tate (Sloan) ‘we need you tonight. You have to be a threat,
if not to score, at least to shoot,” Alexander said, “and he came up
big.” Sloan hit two deep, high arching threes to provide Lincoln
their first lead at 17-15. MacArthur quickly came back to take the
lead back on a layup from Amir Brummett at 18-17. Lincoln then
turned to their leading scorer Bowers, who converted a pair of
baskets to put the Railers up 21-18. The scoring see-sawed for much
of the third quarter with the Railers getting a hard fought
three-point play from Titus Cannon, another jumper from Grunder, and
a driving layup from Cannon. By the time the third quarter came to a
close, Lincoln had swung in front by six at 32-26 and the Railers
were looking more like themselves while the frustration was
continuing to build for the Generals.
[to top of second column]
The fourth quarter was Railer basketball from the past few years.
Threes and free throws. Coming into the contest, the Railers had
attempted the fewest threes in the tournament. Yes, Lincoln, not
many threes. Not a typo. But, as we have seen this year, this is a
different team than those squads. When needed, and Saturday it was
desperately needed, the threes started to fall just like the
temperature will do over the next few days.
Isaac Dewberry got it started with a three to stretch the lead to
nine at 35-26. Now, the Generals were still able to put the ball in
the basket, but only twos. Lincoln was trading threes for twos and
slowly extending the lead. Two more threes from Bowers and the lead
had grown to eleven at 41-30. From there, it was all at the line
and, just like in the overtime period against Quincy, the Railers
were able to get enough free throws to fall to get the win. The
combo of Bowers, Cannon, Sloan, and Grunder teamed up to go 7 of 11
while pushing the lead as high as 14 before coming away with the
twelve point victory.
“We’re glad to get third even though there is the disappointment
from the game last night,” Alexander said. “We’ll give them a couple
of days off to try to and recover and then be back at it in full
force because two of our next three games are non-conference
including Waukegan in a couple of weeks and they have three Division
I players. The schedule really starts getting tough.”
Bowers topped the Railers with 23 while Grunder and Sloan finished
with eight (a career high for Sloan). Cannon finished with six while
Dewberry added the final three. The Railers finished the night only
shooting 34 percent but from where they started, I’ll take it.
The Railers are now done in 2017 and won’t take the court in 2018
until Saturday, January 6 in a home game against Chicago Harlan. The
night will mark the dedication of the floor at Roy S. Anderson
Gymnasium in honor of Coach Neil Alexander. All of Railer Nation
including former players and anyone with any association to Coach
Al’s tenure at Lincoln are encouraged to attend. Varsity tip is
scheduled for 6:30pm. As of this writing, it is expected the
ceremony will take place between the sophomore and varsity game so
you will want to be there early.
Happy New Year everyone and we will see you in 2018!
Bowers 6-13 8-10 23, Sloan 2-4 2-2 8, Grunder 4-9 0-3 8, Cannon 2-6
2-3 6, Dewberry 1-6 0-0 3, Bacon 0-3 0-0 0, Holliday 0-3 0-0 0. TEAM
15-44 12-18 48. 3pt FG 6-20 (Bowers 3-5, Sloan 2-4, Dewberry 1-4,
Holliday 0-1, Bacon 0-1, Grunder 0-2, Cannon 0-3). Rebounds 27
(Bowers 6, Cannon/Holliday 4), Assists 10 (Cannon 6), Steals 11
(Sloan 4), Turnovers 10.
Armon Brummett 14, Amir Brummett 12, Thomas-Bond 4, Neal 2, Mathews
2, Walker 2. TEAM 15-39 4-5 36. 3pt FG 2-17 (Am. Brummett 2).
Rebounds 32, Assists 10, Steals 4, Turnovers 21.
MACARTHUR 5-10-11-10 36
LINCOLN 2-9-21-16 48
[by Jeff Benjamin]