Lincoln out-physicals Charleston for win number 13

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[January 20, 2018]  It was a week later than originally scheduled but the Lincoln Railers finally made their way over to Baker Gymnasium in Charleston. Although the Trojans put up more of a resistant front on Friday night, the Railers were just too much as Lincoln handled Charleston 69-33, their highest offensive output of the season. Isaiah Bowers led the way with a game high 20 points as the Railers had to break out their physical game against a determined Charleston squad.

Just shy of a month ago, the Railers handled the Trojans 62-20 and it looked early as though there would be a repeat of that performance. Just two minutes into the contest, Charleston was forced to take a timeout while looking at a 10-0 deficit on the strength of baskets from Bowers and Ben Grunder, while Titus Cannon drained a pair of threes including one right in front of a boisterous student section for the Trojans. Lincoln was forcing turnover after turnover while the Railers were able to work at will against the zone of the hosts. The early timeout gave the Trojans a chance to take a breath, hit reset, and change defenses. It was that change that amped up the physical play.

Switching to a man-to-man defense allowed Charleston to be more physical and the action put Lincoln in position to be whistled for one foul after another. In fact, the Railers had fouled enough to put Charleston in the bonus before the end of the first quarter. Ask any of the fans that made the trek to Charleston and they will tell you that some of the calls were questionable including one where, on a loose ball, Tate Sloan had his foot grabbed by a Charleston player, causing him to trip. When questioned by the Lincoln coaching staff, it appeared the official declared that there was nothing to call. However, in true coach fashion, Lincoln coach Neil Alexander found the blame to rest with his team.

“Yes, it was a physical game but we let them get physical with us,” Alexander said after career win number 793. “These are the types of games you are going to have to win if you plan on winning a regional, a sectional.”

After the early timeout, a pair of free throws from Drew Bacon extended the lead to 12-0. Charleston finally showed a bit of offensive life going on a 7-1 run to cut the Lincoln advantage to 13-7. The Railers got the lead back to double digits after a score from Isaac Dewberry and a pair of free throws from Cannon as he was fouled as time expired at the end of the first quarter.

Cannon continued to carry the Railers during the early stages of the game by hitting his third three of the night and stretching the lead to 20-7. The Trojans got the margin back to eight with five in a row. You could tell in the play of the Railers as well as the determination on their faces that the physical, sometimes rough, play had stoked a fire and they just weren’t going to put up with the attempted bullying of the Railers. Not only could you see it in the demeanor of those clad in green, you could watch it mount on the scoreboard.

Leading 20-12, the Railers went on a game-deciding 39-8 run through the middle of the fourth quarter. To say Lincoln dominated at the basket would be an understatement. The Railers made only one three during the run, a shot from Bowers that made him the 22nd Lincoln player in history to reach the 100 made threes plateau. But other than that, Lincoln just kept pounding the ball inside and converting on turnovers to decide the fate of this game by halftime.

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Up 34-15, Lincoln must have heard one heck of a halftime speech from Coach Alexander as Lincoln ripped off a 25-5 third quarter. Grunder started the second half with a quick steal and layup while Bacon scored on an easy look on an out of bounds play. Two more scores from Bowers pushed the lead to 42-15 before most of the patrons had returned to their seats from intermission. The Railers got some solid play on the offensive end in the second half from sophomore Jermaine Hamlin. The 6’9” junior scored six of Lincoln’s next ten points in a variety of ways. Whether a rebound and putback, fade away ten-footer in the lane, or the recipient of an alley-oop pass from Grunder that turned into a net cleaning dunk, Hamlin showed flashes of the potential that is just waiting to show its true colors. Of course, in the first half, Hamlin was on and off the court quickly as he picked up two fouls, both on illegal screens. “He is going to set high picks,” Alexander said, “and it he has any thoughts of playing at the next level, he’s going to have to learn to set those. As big as he is, he stands out and where those were, he has to make sure he sets them right.”

After Lincoln had built the lead to 54-20, Bowers drained Lincoln’s only three of the second half, giving him 20 points for the night as well as hitting the century mark for career three pointers. The Trojans were able to cut into the lead a little, but the game was well in hand and the Railers were able to dig into their depth as they moved to 13-4 on the season, 6-1 in the Apollo Conference trailing only Mahomet-Seymour.

The Railers were topped by Bowers’ 20 points with Cannon joining him in double figures with 13 points. Hamlin and Bacon each scored eight while Dewberry and Bacon added six. Colton Holliday played strong minutes scoring four with Noah Funk and Dylan Singleton each scoring a basket late.

The Railers are back in action on Saturday night as the Central Illinois Classic begins at Coach Neil Alexander Court at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium. Lincoln will welcome Washington for a 6:30pm start. In Friday night’s post-game, Coach Alexander noted the game will probably be a bit more methodical and low scoring. Of course, most Railer fans remember the last time Lincoln and Washington met back in 2005’s supersectional at ISU as the Railers held off the Panthers to earn a trip to state. Alexander reminded fans that this one will be a contest where the sixth man of Railer Nation, whether the student section, band, cheerleaders, etc. will definitely be needed in full turnout. It should be a good one against a well-coached and balanced Washington team. A win would certainly help the Lincoln resume as we draw closer to seeding for the state tournament. Hope to see you there.


Bowers 7 5-7 20, Cannon 4 2-2 13, Grunder 4 0-0 8, Hamlin 4 0-0 8, Bacon 2 2-2 6, Dewberry 3 0-0 6, Holliday 2 0-0 4, Funk 1 0-0 2, Singleton 1 0-0 2, Sloan 0 0-0 0, Whiteman 0 0-0 0, Froebe 0 0-0 0. TEAM 28 9-11 69. 3pt FG 4 (Cannon 3, Bowers).


Phillips 11, Bonnstetter 8, Buescher 7, Landrus 3, Littleford 2, Hurst 2. TEAM 10 5-9 33. 3pt FG 8 (Phillips 3, Buescher 2, Bonnstetter 2, Landrus).

LCHS 17-17-25-10 69
CHARLESTON 7-8-8-10 33

[by Jeff Benjamin]

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