Lincoln cruises to non-conference win

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[January 08, 2017]  LINCOLN -- On Saturday night in their return to Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium for the first time since before Christmas, the Lincoln Railers definitely enjoyed the home cooking as they scored the game’s first 12 points and coasted to a 57-37 win over Jerseyville in a non-conference matchup. It was almost a repeat of the last time the two teams met, a 55-33 win for the Railers back in 2008.

Junior Ben Grunder led three Railers in double figures as it was a winning weekend for Lincoln, sweeping both games after the loss on Tuesday to top-ranked Lanphier. In a game of runs, the Railers had all but the last one and, having a 36 point lead before the Panthers put together some offense, eased the pain. The win improves the Lincoln record to 11-5 with a five game stretch in eight days that begins Friday at Chatham with the start of the conference tournament, minus the Springfield schools.

The Railers jumped out to an early 5-0 lead on the heels of two old reliable plays. Isaiah Bowers scored on a back door layup of an assist from Titus Cannon before Bryson Kirby drained a three-pointer. Cannon was then fouled while making a layup but his missed free throw left the score at 7-0. Bowers hit three of four from the free throw line before the first score of the night from Grunder extended the margin to twelve. Looking for their first shutout defensive quarter of the season, Jerseyville finally broke the ice when Lucas Ross scored with 25 seconds to go to end the first quarter scoring at 12-2.

After a free throw from Kirby, Grunder scored the next five for Lincoln, first on a layup off a spinning pass from Nolan Hullinger and then on the first of his two three pointers for the evening. The Lincoln lead had now ballooned to 18-2 and things seemed well in hand. Ross scored again for the Panthers (4-10) before Tate Sloan had an offensive rebound fall in his lap and laid it up for a 20-4 advantage.

Baskets from Kurt Hall and A.J. Shaw quickly cut the lead to just ten, a result of the Railers letting up a bit on defense. Grunder ended the brief run with his second three to make it 23-10. Colton Holliday, coming off his breakout performance the night before at Springfield, split a pair of free throws to send the Railers to the locker room with a 24-12 lead. It was a good spot for Lincoln to be in as they have not yet lost when leading at halftime.

The number ‘3’ has been worn by some notable players in Lincoln history. In recent memory, the likes of Matt Schick and Nathaniel Smith has worn that number. Saturday night, the number worn by Nolan Hullinger represented the quarter that would belong to him. The senior, still fighting illness that limited his minutes Friday at Springfield, scored nine of Lincoln’s first twelve points in the quarter. Hullinger hit two threes as well the scoring a basket and converting the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play. After his second three, the Railers had taken out the doubt of the outcome by rushing to a 35-12 lead.

A three from Jerseyville’s Jacob Ridenhour stopped the bleeding for a moment before Lincoln closed the quarter on a 9-3 run, the final three fittingly coming on a three from Hullinger as the quarter ended. Coming into the night, Hullinger’s career high was twelve, a total he matched in the third quarter alone.

Starting the fourth with a 26 point lead allowed a lot of the pressure to be relieved and some of the bench players to get some extended minutes. However, the Panther and coach Stote Reeder must have been wondering where junior Blake Whittman had been through the first three quarters. Whittman hit a three to start the fourth, the beginning of an onslaught that, even though he only scored in the fourth, led him to be the visitor’s leading scorer on the night.

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The Railers put the game decidedly out of reach with a final 13-0 run. A three form Bowers was followed by a basket from Grunder. Junior Eddie Combs hit a pair of three pointers before a driving layup on the right side of the lane from Sam Birnbaum pushed the lead to 57-21. The point total with two and a half minutes to go matched the best Lincoln offensive output of the season so it seemed a certainty that a new season high was just one more score away. 

Alas, that is when the offense was locked out and the Panthers finally put together a run of their own, obviously a little too late. Led by the three point shooting of Whittman, Jerseyville closed on a 16-0 to cut the final margin to 20. With a number of non-regulars on the floor, I would have to believe it is not too much of a concern for the coaching staff. That’s not to say there still weren’t issues in the wn.

“Free throws and layups should be the two highest percentage shots you have and I think they are our lowest,” Coach Neil Alexander said. “I think I counted eight layups we missed and we weren’t as good as I know we can be from the line.” In just the three games this week, the Railers were barely over 50 percent at 12 of 23 and are shooting just 63 percent for the season.

Everyone that was healthy got in the game. While Drew Bacon waits to find out when he will be able to get on the court again, he watched Grunder lead with a career high 16 points. Hullinger and Bowers added 12, while Combs scored six. Cannon, Sloan, and Birnbaum each chipped in with a pair with Holliday adding a free throw. Zac Morris, Jermaine Hamlin, Isaac Dewberry, and Kameron Whiteman all got in the contest but did not score.

The Railers are not back in action again until Friday night in Chatham to square off against Glenwood. The Titans remember the last visit the Railers made when Lincoln knocked off Glenwood in the season finale and kept Glenwood from winning the conference title outright. The game is the first night of the Central State Eight Non-City Boys’ Tournament, but is set up like a regular game night meaning the sophomores will tip off at 6:00 with the varsity scheduled for 7:30. The sophomores got the night off on the right foot with a dominating 61-31 victory.


Grunder 7 0-0 16, Hullinger 4 1-1 12, Bowers 4 3-4 12, Combs 2 0-0 6, Kirby 1 1-2 4, Cannon 1 0-1 2, Sloan 1 0-0 2, Birnbaum 1 0-0 2, Holliday 0 1-2 1, Morris 0 0-0 0, Hamlin 0 0-0 0, Dewberry 0 0-0 0, Whiteman 0 0-0 0. TEAM 21 6-10 57. 3pt FG 9 (Hullinger 3, Grunder 2, Combs 2, Kirby, Bowers).


Whittman 12, Ross 8, Ridenhour 6, Hall 5, Medford 3, Shaw 3. TEAM 13 4-5 37. 3pt FG 7 (Whittman 4, Ridenhour 2, Medford).

LCHS 12-12-20-13 57
JERSEYVILLE 2-10-6-19 37


- Bryson Kirby is now 29th on all-time list of three pointers made with 77. Next up, tied at 27th, are Brandon Booth and Eric Graue with 78. Isaiah Bowers has moved into a tie at 33rd with Chad Cravatta with 60 threes.
- Coach Neil Alexander coached in his 1,150th game in his career on Saturday night. He is 772-378 all-time with a record of 613-203 at LCHS.
- The next win for Lincoln will be 1,750 in program history while the next victory at Roy S. Anderson will be the 600th in the historic venue.

[Jeff Benjamin]

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