Railer defense comes up big in win over Little Giants
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[January 24, 2018]
In the 17 years I have been fortunate to broadcast Lincoln Railer
basketball, I have witnessed some impressive defensive performances.
I have watched games against some high powered offenses operating in
total bewilderment as well as stingy Lincoln defenses shutting down
one or two star players, rendering their opponent completely
I don’t know if any of them compare to Tuesday night in Canton.
The Lincoln Railer defense, already holding opponents to just 38
points a game this season, put on a clinic of defensive movement and
teamwork, forcing 33 turnovers and holding Canton scoreless for both
the second and third quarters, leading the Railers to a dominating
67-15 win in the Central Illinois Mid-Winter Classic.
There were minutes of possessions where the Little Giants did not
even get a look at the basket as the quick hands of the Lincoln
defense turned passes into turnovers into baskets. Unofficially,
those 33 turnovers resulted in 34 Lincoln points. Defense will
always be a staple of Lincoln Railer basketball and Tuesday night
was certainly the best performance of the season.
“We’ve worked on being quicker with our hands in practice and being
more aggressive especially on rebounding,” Lincoln coach Neil
Alexanders said after the game. “I think our defense moved well, had
good rotation and they are starting to trust one another, something
I’m not sure was there earlier in the season. As for tonight, in a
game like this, the important thing is not to let the kids develop
bad habits and to keep playing. Things that worked tonight that were
easy may not work or be that easy on Friday night”
Senior Isaiah Bowers led the way with 20 points while junior
Jermaine Hamlin had his best game of the season with 13 points. But,
the talk of this game will be the defense. Of course, the game did
not start all roses and sunshine. Canton’s Avery Dean made his first
two shots of the night as the hosts jumped out to an early 4-0 lead.
It was difficult not to think about how the Saturday overtime loss
to Washington started as the Panthers began with a 7-0. Was this
game against a 5-11 opponent going to be a trap game as the Railers
might get caught looking ahead to weekend battles with
Mahomet-Seymour and Morton?
The Railers went on a 13-0 run that took most of the steam out of
Canton. During the run, the Railers relied on the three point shot
as Tate Sloan, Bowers, and Titus Cannon all hit from long range. It
was another good night from behind the arc as Lincoln set a season
high with nine threes. It’s not that Lincoln was looking to dial in
from long distance but the shots were there.
“We’re just looking for good shots, not bad ones,” Alexander said.
“We aren’t necessarily focusing on them but if they are in the
offense, we’ve got guys that can hit them and tonight we took good
shots. That’s all I ask is taking good shots.”
Canton was able to pull a bit closer at 13-9 before Hamlin started
exercising his dominance with a three-point play and then score off
an offensive rebound. When Bowers scored near the end of the first
quarter on a back door layup, Lincoln had turned up the heat all the
way to a 20-9 advantage.
The Railers started the second quarter with another three form
Cannon and the rout was on. A basket from Bowers right before an
alley-oop dunk for Hamlin from Ben Grunder extended the Railer lead
to 27-9. There were stretches of the game when Canton barely could
get the ball across half court and, when they did, the next pass
usually ended up in the hands of the Railers and was heading the
other way. Bowers added another three in the second quarter while
Isaac Dewberry punctuated the first half with a three that went in,
tried to bounce out, but fell through for a 37-9 halftime lead.
[to top of second column]
Now, in years past, Lincoln (14-5) has stood tall with the
occasional shutout defensive quarter. I don’t think anyone believed
they would post another one. After Grunder sank a three to start the
third, Hamlin scored again on the inside before two consecutive
steals led to two straight convention three point plays for Bowers
and a 48-9 lead after three. Hamlin started the fourth with another
basket as part of his career night. “You can see the potential with
Jermaine,” Alexander explained. “Earlier in the year, he was having
a hard time just catching the ball and now he doing the little
things we need him to do. There are still things he needs to learn,
to improve on but we are just scratching the surface with him.”
Colton Holliday scored on a drive for a basket and foul to extend
the margin to 53-9. Finally, with 5:38 left in the game, Canton’s
Caleb Miller scored on a bank shot jumper in the lane to end
Lincoln’s defensive whitewashing and stop their 40-0 run. Let me say
that again…a 40-0 run. Seen a lot of things but never a stretch like
that. Hamlin continued to show off his bag of tricks with a jump
hook from the baseline while Holliday duplicated his earlier lay-in
for a 57-11 lead.
A free throw from Canton’s Evan Otto preceded a pair of threes for
Lincoln, one each from Noah Funk and Kameron Whiteman. After a
steal, Funk scored on a layup while Whiteman tallied again with a
layup of his own. Canton’s Owen Watson ended the night’s scoring
with their second three of the night to finalize the score at 67-15.
I guess one way to look at it is Canton scored the game’s first four
points and the last three. Other than those seven points, Lincoln
outscored Canton 67-5.
As mentioned previously Bowers and Hamlin led in double figures with
20 and 13 respectively. Grunder added seven while Cannon scored six.
Holliday, Whiteman, and Funk all chipped in with five with Sloan and
Dewberry scoring three each.
As relaxing as the game on Tuesday night was, the next Railer
contest will come with a little more stress and anxiety as Lincoln
travels to Mahomet-Seymour for the next game of the Mid-Winter
Classic at 7:30pm. More importantly, it is an Apollo Conference game
and if the Railers have any plans of being in the title hunt, they
need to pull off the victory of Friday night. The Railers stand at
6-1 in the Apollo while the Bulldogs are a perfect 7-0. If you are
able to make the trip, it is a definite that your support and
presence would be appreciated. “They have a great atmosphere over
there. Their student section is awesome,” Alexander said. “I would
love to take our student section over there and let them have a
battle of the sections. We will need all the support we can get if
we are going to have a chance on Friday night.”
I know there has been a lot about the student section lately. What a
better way to show the Apollo what the Lincoln Railers and their
fans can bring when given the chance. I think Friday night would be
a great night to start.
I also want to say a special thank you to Tom Larey. Tom was my
broadcast partner for over nine seasons and filled in Tuesday night
for Josh Komnick. It had been a while since we had done a game
together but it certainly didn’t feel like that to me. It was fun
for me and I felt like we picked up right where we left off.
Bowers 8 2-2 20, Hamlin 6 1-1 13, Grunder 2 2-2 7, Cannon 2 0-0 6,
Holliday 2 1-1 5, Whiteamn 2 0-1 5, Funk 2 0-0 5, Sloan 1 0-0 3,
Dewberry 1 0-0 3, Bacon 0 0-0 0, Froebe 0 0-0 0, Ewald 0 0-0 0. TEAM
26 6-7 67. 3pt Fg 9 (Cannon 2, Bowers 2, Sloan, Grunder, Dewberry,
Dean 4, Gossett 3, Watson 3, Miller 2, Smith 2, Otto 1. TEAM 6 1-4
15. 3pt FG 2 (Gossett, Watson).
LCHS 20-17-11-18 67
CANTON 9-0-0-6 15