LINCOLN 51, CENTENNIAL 42
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[November 21, 2017]
by Jeff Benjamin
The Lincoln Railers may have started
the 2017-18 season as members of a new conference, but the results
in the first game looked rather familiar.
By knocking off the Chargers from Champaign Centennial 51-42 on
Monday night, the Railers extended their winning streak over the
Chargers in the Eaton Electrical Round Robin Tournament to eight
games. As will probably be a common thread for this season, it was a
stand by defense that secured the win for Lincoln. After seeing a
14-point lead dwindle to just five at the end of the third quarter,
the Railer defense sparked a 10-0 run to begin the fourth that
finally put away the Chargers.
Seniors Ben Grunder and Isaiah Bowers topped the Railers in scoring
with 16 and 14 points respectively and led a Railer defense that
prevented Centennial from scoring until 1:49 remained in the fourth
quarter. By that time, Lincoln had turned a 35-30 lead into a 45-30
advantage and left the Chargers watching their chances of winning
diminish quickly as time ticked down.
One of the questions of the Railer season is what type of impact
will 6í9Ē junior Jermaine Hamlin have on the floor. Hamlin showed
flashes on both ends with an impressive block on one end followed up
by a left-handed hook shot putting the Railers on the board. After a
three from game high scorer Bryson Cowper, Grunder tallied for the
first time giving Lincoln a 4-3 lead. Hamlin continued to show his
potential by getting fouled on a shot after battling for an
offensive rebound. Splitting the free throws tied the game at 5.
Centennial took their final lead at 7-5, but was quickly evened as
Bowers scored on a back door layup off a precision pass from Titus
Cannon. The basket started a 8-0 run as the Railers took a 13-7 lead
at the end of the first quarter. The run included two of Lincolnís
three three-pointers on the night, one each from Grunder and Tate
Sloan, the latter coming off a shot from the top of the key that
settled through the bottom of the net as the buzzer sounded.
Centennial grabbed the first four points of the second quarter, all
from Cowper and Tommy Makabu. In fact the pair scored all of the
points for the Chargers. After a hook shot from Hamlin, Cowper
struck again from long range to bring Centennial within one.
Along with their run to start the fourth, it was another run, this
time at the end of the second that propelled the Railers to a
comfortable 13-point lead. Baskets from Bowers and Hamlin along with
another three from Grunder stretched the margin to 22-14. One of the
best defensive plays of the night gave Lincoln their first double
digit lead of the night. Time and again, the Chargers were forced
into turnovers where the ball would trickle into the backcourt. For
most of those times, Centennial would slowly go after the ball to
force the over and back violation. Down eight, Centennial watched
another turnover turn into two points for the Railers as Cannon
raced past the unaware Charger guard, pick up the ball, and race
ahead for an easy layup and a 24-14 lead.
Bowers showed his athletic ability for Lincolnís next basket as he
went up for a back door layup and, thanks to a helping Charger
defender, was forced to double clutch in mid-air. Bowers scored the
basket, was fouled, and converted the free throw for an 11 point
lead. Just like the end of the first quarter, the Railers ran down
the clock, getting a three at the buzzer. This time, however, it
wasnít the shot that went down but Grunder. The senior was fouled as
he attempted to match Sloanís end of quarter three. Grunder sank two
of the three shot to put Lincolnís lead at 29-16.
[to top of second column]
Back and forth scoring started the third with Lincoln baskets coming
from Cannon and Grunder. Grunderís 15-footer kept the Railer lead at
13 at 33-20. Centennialís Cowper and Makabu, who combined for 34
points on the night, took over, scoring the next seven points and,
at some points, left the Lincoln defense acting more like
spectators. Up just six, the defense came up big again when Bowers
grabbed a steal and hit a 15-footer, but another three-pointer cut
the margin to only five at the third quarter break.
Bowers scored the first four of the fourth quarter as Lincoln
started their game-deciding run. Grunder scored on an offensive
rebound after his own miss, while Cannon picked up another steal and
layup. After Sloan connected on a pair of free throws, the Lincoln
lead had grown to the largest of the night at 45-30. The Chargers
finally got on the board, but not after over six minutes of the
fourth quarter had ticked away. With Lincoln up 46-35, Hamlinís
first varsity start got an exclamation point. After swatting away
what looked like a sure two for Centennial, the junior posted up on
the low block, took a nice pass and turned to an open lane and
sealed the win with a thunderous two-hand dunk, pushing the lead
back to 48-35.
Lincoln coach Neil Alexander, who picked up career win number 781,
mentioned one simple move may have been the deciding factor. ďYouíll
notice we made our run when Tate (Sloan) went in. He allowed Isaiah
(Bowers) to move to a four and he was moving on the back of the
defense. That is what Jermaine (Hamlin) is going to have to learn to
do for our defense.Ē
Centennial did end the game on a 7-3 run, but it was not enough as
they fell to Lincoln 51-42. The last time Lincoln lost to Centennial
during the opening week of the season was 2009.
Lincoln was led in scoring by Grunderís 16, a career high tying
mark, doing so now for the fourth time. Bowers also hit double
figures with 14, while Hamlin had a strong night of nine points.
Cannon scored seven with Sloan adding five.
The other Monday night games saw Mahomet-Seymour sneak by Cahokia
53-50 while Danville did not find much resistance in an undermanned
Limestone squad, handling the Rockets 91-34, the second largest
margin in the tournament since 1999.
The Railers are back at it Wednesday night as they welcome Cahokia
to a Thanksgiving Eve battle at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium. Tip time
is set for 7:30.
Grunder 6 2-3 16, Bowers, 5 4-5 14, Hamlin 4 1-2 9, Cannon 3 1-2 7,
Sloan 1 2-2 5, Holliday 0 0-0 0, Morris 0 0-0 0. TEAM 19 10-14 51.
3-point field goals 3 (Grunder 2, Sloan).
Cowper 18, Makabu 16, Billings 3, Roberts-Thomas 2, Evans 2, Flowers
1. TEAM 14 8-12 42. 3-point field goals 6 (Cowper 3, Makabu 3).
CENTENNIAL 7-9-14-12 42
LCHS 13-16-6-16 51
[by Jeff Benjamin]
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