Friday, there was no doubt what was going through the mind of
Lincoln coach Neil Alexander and the why was rather obvious to those
in attendance on the final day of the Prairie Farms Holiday Classic.
With a little over a minute and a half to go in the first quarter,
all five Lincoln starters were on the bench and, to use a hockey
term, the second line was in, trying to do anything to bring a spark
to the Railers. In the end, Lincoln was able to get close but not
come back for the win as they fell to conference mate Decatur
MacArthur 51-41. The loss leaves Lincoln with a three game losing
streak, eighth place at the Classic, and more questions heading into
2017 than they hoped.
Maybe it was the after effects of the sluggish contest the night
before against Eisenhower, but it did not take long for Alexander to
make a statement to his regulars. Isaiah Bowers put Lincoln on the
board first with a 14-footer in the lane on a nice pass from Drew
Bacon. In a portent of bad things, it was the only score for Lincoln
top offensive producer. MacArthur scored the game’s next six points
before a drive by Titus Cannon cut the lead to 6-4. A score from
Adrian Williams and a steal and score from one of MacArthur’s
Brummett twins was the last straw.
By the time the Railer regulars had grabbed towels and taken a seat,
hanging their heads due to results of their effort, a quintet of
Tate Sloan, Zach Morris, Eddie Combs, Sam Birnbaum, and Colton
Holliday were representing Lincoln on the floor. Lincoln’s normal
starting five were on the bench, a location they would occupy for
not just the rest of the quarter, but the rest of the half.
“I thought our second group of guys did a real good job,” Alexander
said. “Yes, they made a few mistakes, but they were out there
playing hard and that’s what I ask, is to play hard.” A number of
years ago, a similar fate fell on the starters at a tournament game
in Chatham as Lincoln was down early to Taylorville. Not going to
play hard, not going to play. A simple equation that Coach Alexander
does not waver from.
So, down 13-4, the Railers tried to keep Lincoln’s deficit
respectable. The game speed certainly played a role in the struggles
throughout the rest of the half. Birnbaum did bring the Railers
closer by the end of the quarter with drive and layup, cutting the
margin to seven at 13-6. For MacArthur it was the Brummett twins,
Armon and Amir, that did in the Railers, combining for 30 points and
11 rebounds. After Grunder sank a 13-foot jump shot to keep the game
at seven , 15-8, it was a three from Ray Neal and baskets off
turnovers by each Brummett that catapulted the Generals’ lead to
Yes, there were turnovers, a number of them by the “second team,”
but that did not keep them from playing hard. Down 14, it would have
been easy to pack it in and get ready to head back up I-55 to
Lincoln. However, the Railers were looking for a spark and the end
of the second quarter would see just that. A pair of free throws by
Morris was followed by an offensive rebound putback by Holliday.
Another basket from MacArthur was answered with a free throw from
the sophomore Holliday and a basket at the buzzer from Grunder.
Suddenly, there was hope heading into the locker room, as the lead
had been cut to nine at 24-15.
It was not a good first half. Nine Lincoln turnovers resulted in 15
points for the Generals (6-4), and the Railers had more turnovers
than baskets, none of the field goals from three point range.
However, in the long run, Lincoln saw their deficit grow by only two
with the starters on the bench. If the starters could get the
message, find some inspiration and motivation from the bench
perspective during the first half, it was still a winnable game.
With the second half ready to start, the five on the floor for
Lincoln was the normal starting five of Cannon , Hullinger, Kirby,
Bowers, and Bacon. Unfortunately, they were on the floor to watch a
quick 6-0 burst to push the margin to the largest of the day at 15,
now 30-15. The Railers did not score until 4:25 left in the quarter
when Hullinger hit Lincoln’s first three of the day. After a
MacArthur turnover, Cannon found an opening in the lane and his
layup pulled Lincoln within 30-20. A free throw by MacArthur and an
offensive rebound basket and foul stretched the game back to 14.
[to top of second column]
Grunder spent a lot of time late in the third and early in the
fourth at the line. The junior sank six of seven free throws around
another score from Holliday. After Grunder’s final set of free
throws, Lincoln was hanging around, down 10 at 38-28. When Williams
made only one of two free throws, the Railers showed the heart we
know that beats under the uniform with LINCOLN emblazoned on it. A
three from Kirby followed by another MacArthur turnover led to
another from long range from Kirby and quickly the game had closed
to five at 39-34.
After the Generals got a basket from Amir Brummet, Cannon sank a
pair of free throws to bring the game to 41-36. Free throw shooting
was much better for the Railers, going 11 of 13 on the day. After
Cannon’s tosses at 3:34, Lincoln was in the game and playing with
fresher players thanks to their first half rest. However, turnovers
and missed layups were a bugaboo for the Railers throughout the
tournament and they struck again as the game headed to its
conclusion. In a 1:45 stretch, MacArthur kept giving Lincoln
opportunities thanks to turnovers, but the Railers could not take
advantage, committing two turnovers and missing a layup.
With 1:49 to go, the Generals began to put the game away with a 10-5
run with Lincoln’s only scoring a three from Eddie Combs and layup
from Tate Sloan. “It was a lot of things in this one,” Alexander
said. “Off the top of my head, count eight layups we missed, we shot
airballs, and then when we had a chance to cut it within five,
missed shots and turned the ball over twice. Against a team like
MacArthur, you just can’t do that.”
Over the course of the three days, it was a shooting performance
Railer Nation is not used to seeing. Lincoln (9-4) shot 40 percent
from the field, including 27 percent from three point range, and 58
percent on their free throws. The shots were there, they just were
“We need to find ourselves. Need to be more consistent,” Alexander
said. “If you take a look at 500 teams, over the course of a season,
they may have a really good night but then follow it up will a bad
night. Really good teams stay at a consistent level and get better.
We’ve had some ups, but it’s the valleys, the low-low valleys that
we have to avoid.”
Grunder led the way in double figures with 10, while Cannon and
Kirby each had six. Holliday played well in his short span with five
points, with Combs and Hullinger adding three. Sloan, Birnbaum,
Morris, and leading scorer Bowers each scored two.
The 2017 segment does not do Lincoln any favors as they start with
Springfield Lanphier on Tuesday night. Lanphier is fresh off the
championship of the Pekin Holiday Tournament with a 64-19 win over
Normal West. The varsity will tip at 7:30pm Tuesday with the
sophomore squad getting things kicked off at 6:00 at Lober-Nika
Gymnasium. It will be Lincoln’s final visit to Lanphier as a member
of the Central State Eight so you have to believe the Lions would
like nothing more than to give the Railers a four game losing streak
as a going away present. Let’s see Railer Nation show up and support
the Railers as 2017 gets underway.
Grunder 2-3 6-7 10, Cannon 2-5 2-2 6, Kirby 2-6 0-0 6, Holliday 2-4
1-2 5, Hullinger 1-2 0-0 3, Cpmbs 1-2 0-0 3, Bowers 1-6 0-0 2, Sloan
1-1 0-0 2, Brinbaum 1-2 0-0 2, Morris 0-1 2-2 2, Bacon 0-2 0-0 0.
TEAM 13-34 11-13 41. 3pt FG 4-14 (Kirby 2-6, Hullinger 1-2, Combs
1-2, Bacon 0-1, Morris 0-1, Bowers 0-2), Assists 6 (Bowers 2),
Rebounds 13 (Bowers 3), Turnovers 12.
Am.Brummett 19, Ar.Brummett 11, Williams 9, Briggs 5, Neal 3,
Thaxton 2, Ingram 2. TEAM 18-34 14-17 51. 3pt FG 1-9 (Neal), Assists
8, Rebounds 26, Turnovers 16.
LCHS 6-9-11-15 41
MACARTHUR 13-11-12-15 51