Lincoln defense hounds Bulldogs for win

Send a link to a friend  Share

[January 27, 2018]  Friday marked the 32nd anniversary of the Chicago Bears winning Super Bowl 20. Sure, the team had arguably the best running back in NFL history with Walter Payton and the always entertaining antics of the ‘punky QB’ Jim McMahon. However, if you ask anyone about that team, the first thing that comes to mind is the Bears’ 46 defense. A defense that pitched two playoff shutouts en route to the Super Bowl and then decimated the Patriots 46-10. A defense that was the identity of a team that was destined to be one of the best, if not the best in football. Defense wins championships. It’s not just a cliché, it’s the truth.

Friday night also marked an opportunity at a little payback for the Lincoln Railers as they traveled to Mahomet to take on the Bulldogs, a squad that beat the Railers 48-42 in the third game of the season. It was also a team Lincoln was looking up at in the Apollo Conference standings. If Lincoln was going to steal one on the road, climb even with the Bulldogs in the conference, and instill more confidence in a team that is now two-thirds of the way through the regular season, there was really only one way that was going to happen.


Coming off their best defensive effort of the season against Canton on Tuesday night, the Railers put the clamps on Mahomet-Seymour’s Mr. Everything Cory Noe and continued to show why this Lincoln team can be dangerous come tournament time with a 51-37 win over the Bulldogs at Mahomet-Seymour high School. The victory leaves both teams tied for the top of the conference at 7-1 with Lincoln improving their overall mark to 15-5. In that first encounter, Noe scored 25 points including 21 of the team’s 27 second half points as they got the victory. On this night, there was no question about what priority number one for the defense was: don’t let Noe beat you. Lesson learned.

“We worked really hard on a lot of things to make sure we knew where he (Noe) was,” Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said after the win. “In the first game, he did his damage by getting in the middle so tonight we wanted to keep him out of the middle. Jermaine (Hamlin) also made a difference as his presence and early defensive efforts caused Noe to be a little hesitant.”

Noe still led the Bulldogs in scoring with 13 points, but the Railers were clearly the better team in Mahomet. Heck, even in a battle of the student sections, the contingent from Lincoln would have been voted the winner as they were louder, more involved, and definitely more creative. As for on the court action, a key was the ability of the Railers to go on runs while Mahomet was held in check by not getting their crowd into the contest. The best spurt they had was a 6-0 run late in the second into the third quarter while the Railers were full of runs all night thanks to their defense.

After the Bulldogs scored the game’s first points, the Railers went on an 11-2 run, led by senior Ben Grunder who scored Lincoln’s first seven points. One basket was the result of a steal and a layup, an offensive weapon that would be a common thread throughout the night. Grunder also sank Lincoln’s only three of the night on his way to his 12 points. Lincoln also got some early scores from Hamlin and Colton Holliday, in the game to prevent Hamlin from early foul trouble, something Lincoln had to deal with on Friday night. The Bulldogs (15-7) closed the quarter with four in a row including the first basket of the night for Noe. He is such a good player that any score he gets gives you that feeling of ‘well, here he goes.”

Hamlin continued his strong play with Lincoln’s first points of the second quarter and after a Mahomet score, the defense took over. The Railers put together a 9-0 run with six of the points a direct result of steals becoming layups for Tate Sloan, Titus Cannon, and Isaiah Bowers. Cannon also had a conventional three point play in the run as the Railers pushed the lead to 22-10. No matter how many timeouts Mahomet-Seymour coach Chad Benedict took, Lincoln was just faster and more aggressive in the first half and the scoreboard showed it.

 [to top of second column]

As mentioned previously, the Bulldogs did climb within eight at halftime, 22-14, and then then cut the margin to six with the first score of the second half. I’m sure the fans in attendance for the Bulldogs would have be surprised to know that would be as close as the home squad would get for the rest of the evening. Bowers led the Railers on a 10-0 run to take a 32-16 lead midway through the third. Bowers strong rebound led to a score from Isaac Dewberry before Bowers and Drew Bacon were both perfect from the line on four attempts. Cannon also had a strong drive to the basket on a night where Alexander said his point guard ‘played a great game.’ Dewberry closed the run showing great patience on an out of bounds play by letting the defender commit and then laying in a very simple finger roll.

The Bulldogs tried to start a rally near the end of the third but Hamlin put a thunderous halt to that notion as Grunder drove to the basket, drew two defenders and found a wide open Hamlin whose dunk ignited the student section and quieted the home fans. Noe did start to find his rhythm at the end of the quarter by hitting two tough threes to close the gap to ten at the end of the quarter and the ‘uh-oh’ feeling was starting to rear its ugly head.

The fourth quarter, at least as for Lincoln’s offense, was played 15 feet from the basket from the free throw line. Eleven of Lincoln’s 15 points came from the charity stripe while Mahomet just could not get any closer than eight at 44-36. Unlike the first game, the Lincoln defense did not allow Noe to have any freedom and, by the end of the night, seemed to have frustrated him as his only fourth quarter points came from the line. After all the discussion of free throw problems this season, the Railers had hit on 75 percent over the last six games and Friday night converted 16 of 23 from the line. When the final buzzer sounded, Cannon tossed the ball to the nearby official and growled in excitement at the Lincoln student section as each showed their appreciation for the other’s efforts.

“We watched tape of the first game and we saw some things,” Alexander said, “but more than anything, the kids thought they gave the first game away and they didn’t want to let that happen here tonight. Of course what we did here tonight doesn’t mean anything if we come out tomorrow night and don’t play with the same intensity and effort.”

The Railers put three in double figures with Grunder leading the way with 12 points, while Cannon had 11 and Hamlin hit double figures for the second game in a row with 10. Four was the magic number as Sloan, Bacon, Bowers, and Dewberry all finished with that mark in the scorebook while Holliday chipped in with the other two.

Lincoln has no time to enjoy this one as they are back in action on Saturday night at home in the final game of this year’s Central Illinois Mid-Winter Classic as the Morton Potters make the trip down I-155. Game time is set for 6:30pm with the sophomores beginning the evening’s activities at 5:00pm. The Railers are playing some good basketball right now, especially on defense. In the past when these teams get together, it is usually a low scoring affair. With Lincoln’s defense where they are right now, that may be just what they need to put another in the win column.


Grunder 5 1-2 12, Cannon 3 5-6 11, Hamlin 4 2-6 10, Sloan 1 2-3 4, Bacon 0 4-4 4, Bowers 1 2-2 4, Dewberry 2 0-0 4, Holliday 1 0-0 2. TEAM 17 16-23 51. 3pt FG 1 (Grunder).


Noe 13, Coztzee 6, Coleman 5, Campion 4, Benedict 3, Valdman 2, Finch 2, Johnson 2. TEAM 12 9-12 37. 3pt FG 4 (Noe 2, Coleman, Benedict).

LCHS 11-11-14-15 51
M-SEYMOUR 8-6-12-11 37

[by Jeff Benjamin]

Back to top