Defense leads Railers to first win in 2018
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[January 23, 2018]
With the dedication of the court
at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium in honor of Lincoln coach Neil
Alexander on Saturday night, it would be easy to expect the Railers
to have an abundance of emotion, something that can actually work
against you. Following the ceremony between games, Lincoln was
tasked with taking on an opponent from the Chicago Public League in
the Falcons from Chicago Harlan. Instead of Lincoln trying to reel
themselves in from the emotion, the Falcons were the ones slowing
things down. However, in the end, the Railers defense made enough
plays to knock off the Falcons 45-25.
“Our defense has to lead to offense if we are going to be
successful,” Alexander said after the game. “The traps in the
corners worked well tonight.” It was that defense that sparked a
12-2 run to end the game, a victory that improves the Lincoln record
to 12-3. The defense that forced 24 turnovers and held the Falcons
to 40 percent shooting was responsible for holding another team to
under 30 points. Well, at least partially responsible.
“The style of play they ran tonight, yeah, they scored 25 points and
we get credit for it,” Alexander said, “but they really held
themselves down with that style. I mean, to get the opening tip and
pass the ball around 30 times, that’s not the most exciting way to
start a game, but that was their game plan.”
No, Coach wasn’t exaggerating. After the Falcons (7-7) grabbed the
opening possession, it took 1:48 before a travel started the counter
on the Harlan turnover counter. After a couple of misses from the
Railers, Harlan’s D’Carius Davis sank a three to put the Falcons on
top 3-0. Now, I’ve already mentioned that Harlan had their
difficulties in shooting. The Lincoln marksmanship was not much
better, hitting on 17 of 40 (42.5 percent) for the evening, and just
1 of 12 from three point range. Where Lincoln did have success, at
least early, was in the lane. The Railers made their first four
shots in the lane, jumping out to an 8-3 lead in the second quarter.
Lincoln’s first two baskets came on 15-foot and 9-foot shots in the
lane from Isaiah Bowers. You could have won a lot of bets on
Saturday night claiming Bowers would be held to just those two
scores on the night as he finished 2 of 13 from the field. By no
means was he forcing shots, it was just one of those nights where he
wasn’t getting the bounces. Fortunately, as a good team does, others
After Ben Grunder’s basket gave the Railers the five point
advantage, Harlan was able to come back and eventually tie the game
on a three by Eddie Niles, Jr. The 8-8 score lasted until the latter
stages of the second quarter when Titus Cannon split a pair of free
throws to give Lincoln a slim one-point lead at halftime. It was the
combination of those two that would take the lead and get the
Railers the win.
Lincoln used a 12-2 run to start the third to run out to a 21-10
lead. The offense seemed to pick up after the halftime break,
possible a result of not wanting to practice more defense during the
week. “The halftime talk was pretty simple. If we’re not shoot and
score, we’re wasting all that time shooting,” Alexander said. “We
spend a lot of time shooting the basketball in practice, we might as
well spend the time on defense, the extra 30 to 40 minutes on
Imagine if they did practice defense more. As good as they’ve been
playing, they could be even more dominant. On Saturday night, when
Lincoln was turning defense to offense, it was happening quick and
the points were coming in bunches. After Grunder scored on an
offensive rebound, that was followed by an immediate steal by Tate
Sloan who fed Cannon for the basket. Up 15-8, the Falcons finally
were able to get into the frontcourt and to the basket getting a
basket from Tim Turner. Grunder got the momentum back for Lincoln on
a 15-footer, followed by Sloan scoring on a layup after a steal by
Cannon, who returned the favor from earlier. A reverse layup from
Drew Bacon pushed the Railer advantage to double figures for the
first time at 21-10.
[to top of second column]
After a three point play, Cannon answered back with one of his own
on a strong drive to the basket while being fouled. His free throw
put the lead back to 11 heading into the fourth. The Railers turned
up the offense in the fourth as the Falcons were willing to shoot
quicker, hoping to find their way back into the game. The Railers
and Falcons alternated points to the midway point of the fourth
including five points in a row from Colton Holliday off the bench. A
basket from Grunder on a drive down the baseline put Lincoln on top
33-20 before Niles hit his second three of the night to cut the
margin to ten.
Grunder sank a pair of free throws before making a steal and looking
ahead to an aware Cannon who read the steal, went to the basket, and
scored courtesy of Grunder’s defense. The woes for the Falcons
continued on their offensive end with miss after miss and more
turnovers thanks to the Lincoln trapping defense. With 1:46 left,
Sloan sank Lincoln’s first three of the night for a 40-23 lead.
After a Harlan score stopped the bleeding, Grunder hit two more free
throws before Bacon’s three point play ended the night’s scoring and
a convincing twenty point win. Aside from the win, a big positive
for the Railers was a turn from the norm of the poor free throw
shooting that has hassled the team this season. After missing three
of their first four, Lincoln ended the game making nine in a row to
secure the win.
However, Coach Alexander was, in typical fashion, placing the blame
on himself for the team’s sluggish beginning. “I was more nervous
about the pre-game things than I was the game and that’s not fair to
our kids. I take blame for some of the things that we did in the
Lincoln was led in scoring by 12 apiece from Titus Cannon and Ben
Grunder while Drew Bacon added a season high 7 points. Tate Sloan
and Colton Holliday each added five with Isaiah Bowers scoring four.
Holliday led the Railers with 7 rebounds while Bowers stood out on
defense with 7 steals.
The Railers are back in action on Friday night as they travel to
Charleston for a return to Apollo Conference action. Tip time is
scheduled for 7:30 with the sophomores starting at 6:00pm. The
sophomore squad fell 34-32 on Saturday night.
Cannon 4-6 4-5 12, Grunder 4-7 4-4 12, Bacon 3-4 1-1 7, Sloan 2-3
0-0 5, Holliday 2-4 1-3 5, Bowers 2-13 0-0 4, Dewberry 0-3 0-0 0.
TEAM 17-40 10-13 45. 3pt Fg 1-12 (Sloan 1-2, Grunder 0-1, Cannon
0-2, Dewberry 0-3, Bowers 0-4). Rebounds 19 (Holliday 7), Assists 8
(Cannon 3), Steals 19 (Bowers 7), Turnovers 8.
CHICAGO HARLAN (25)
Davis 7, Turner 6, Niles 6, Dobine 4, Turnbo 2. TEAM 10-25 2-4 25.
3pt FG 3-12 (Niles 2, Davis). Rebounds 20, Assists 5, Steals 6,
HARLAN 3-5-5-12 25
LCHS 6-3-15-21 45
[by Jeff Benjamin]