Railers recover from horrible first half to claim 3rd at Collinsville

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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.

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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]

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