On Thursday night, Normal West's
Bryce Bronke drained a 3-pointer from the right wing as time
expired in overtime to give the Wildcats a 44-43 victory over the
Lincoln Railers. Bronke's shot was his only field goal of the game
and was released from near the "R" and "S" in "Railsplitters" on the
side of the court near the student section.
In deference to Yogi Berra, it
was déjà vu all over again. Back when Brandon Farmer and Matt Schick
were juniors, Normal West upset the Railers in regional play on a
last-second shot from a player who had not made a basket all night. And where did that shot come from? You guessed it, the same spot as
This game did not carry the
importance of the one a few years ago, but it was just as critical
to a Railer team looking to get back to .500, while Normal West was
trying to stay unbeaten.
However, with the numerous turnovers and
mental mistakes he saw from his team, Lincoln coach Neil Alexander summed up
the game by saying, "We did not deserve to win tonight. We have to
play with focus and intensity, and tonight we did not do that."
The game did not start very
well for the Railers, and the Wildcats jumped out to a 10-3 lead,
including the first five points from Chris Bohl. Lincoln's first
points of the night came on a 3-pointer from Christian Van Hook
that, from our broadcast position, looked well off until it hit off
the glass and in. Five quick points from Austin Stewart put West up
by the seven-point margin. Not letting the early deficit deter their
efforts, the Railers' defense stiffened and held their opponents
scoreless for the rest of the quarter. A 3 from Tommy Harris
brought the Railers closer, and a forced turnover led to a Van Hook
3 from the top of the key in the final seconds of the period to
bring the Railers to within one at 10-9.
Normal West tried to pull away
to start the second quarter on a 3 from Spencer Seibring. But,
Harris answered with his second 3, which started a 9-0 run to put
Lincoln (2-4) up by five at 18-13. The final six points of the run
came from Van Hook in a variety of ways, including a lay-in on a lob,
a baseline jumper and a pair from the free-throw line. As physical
as the game was, I certainly would not have thought those would be
Lincoln's only two makes from the free-throw line for the game.
In a sign of things to come,
West cut the Lincoln lead to two by hitting a 3 at the buzzer to
post a halftime score of
Lincoln up 18-16.
The Railers came out ready to
play to start the third quarter. The offense took on a new look
with Max Cook positioned at the free-throw line and floating from
each side of the lane. He acted as the hub of a wheel, causing the
Wildcats some difficulty in solving the set. The new positioning
worked, as a quick 6-0 burst pushed the Lincoln lead to eight at
24-16. Van Hook scored down low on a nice pass from Cook at the
high post, and a Will Podbelsek steal and layup, followed by Cook's
14-footer in the lane, forced Normal West coach Brian Cupples to take time to
settle his troops.
After the stoppage, the
Wildcats cut the Lincoln lead to three. Leading scorer Stewart, who
finished with a game-high 25 points, scored on an offensive rebound,
while a drive from Adam McGinnis and free throw by Stewart put the
game at 24-21. Showing fight, Lincoln answered with an offensive
rebound score from Van Hook and a big 3 from Podbelsek. Up
29-21, the Railers seemed to have the game headed in the direction
they wanted. After a turnover, Lincoln had the ball with under a
minute to go and, unless something changed, would get possession to
start the fourth quarter.
The final 40 seconds of the
third may have been the turning point. After a missed shot, Stewart
was fouled shooting a 3-pointer. After making the first two, he
missed the third, but the ball stayed with the Wildcats, and Stewart
drew the visitors closer by hitting a 3 at the buzzer. Just
that quickly, Lincoln went from up eight with the ball to just up
three, and all the momentum at Roy S. Anderson started shifting to
[to top of second column]
Senior Jake Olson put a little
more room in the lead by hitting his first 3 of the night to
push the game back to 32-26. However, another 3 from the
suddenly-can't-miss Stewart cut the margin in half. After a pair of
Wildcat free throws, Olson hit again from long range and Van Hook's
12-footer from the baseline put the Railers up 37-31. After a free
throw from the evening's future villain, Bronke, it was Stewart again
who would not let his Wildcats stay down. The senior hit a 10-footer,
then, after a steal, was fouled on a layup and converted the free
throw to tie the game at 37.
Both teams had trouble hanging
on to the ball throughout the game, with Lincoln having 17
turnovers, while West turned it over 14 times.
"Both teams played sloppy," Alexander said. "I'm not sure either team wanted to win this
Lincoln had a moderate amount of difficulty getting the ball
inbounds. Whether it was being thrown away or forcing a timeout to
be called, the West defense caused a number of errant passes that
resulted in Wildcat points.
A turnover with 3.8 seconds
remaining gave the Railers a shot to win in regulation, but the inbounds pass
to Jordan Gesner was mishandled and the senior could not get a good
grip. When he finally flung the ball toward the basket, it nicked
the front of the rim and we were headed to overtime.
In the extra session, it was
Stewart again from the line to give West a two-point advantage. Gesner
redeemed himself by hitting a 3 to put Lincoln
up 40-39. Harris' third 3 of the game put the Railers up four,
and things were starting to look good for the red and green. Again,
Stewart led his team back, getting fouled on another 3-point attempt. After making two, the Railers again had difficulty handling
the basketball, giving the Wildcats the ball in the closing seconds.
A missed shot was tracked down by Harris, who was fouled. His front
end of the one-and-one was off the mark, and the Wildcats raced downcourt. With the ball being knocked out of bounds with 2.4 seconds
remaining, the stage was set for Bronke to hit the game-winner as
A disappointing loss for the
Railers, who have lost three in a row, it was a game both teams
could have won, or lost, as each squad made enough miscues to keep
their opponent in the game. Normal West did just to enough to hang
around and leave town with the win.
Van Hook led the Lincoln
scoring with 18, with Harris hitting three 3s for a career-high
nine points. Olson added six, while Podbelsek scored five, Gesner
three, and Cook had one basket.
The Railers are now off until a week from tonight, when they will take on the Rockets in
Rochester. The CS8 season for the Railers will open with a scheduled
tip time of 7:30.
Van Hook 7-8 2-3 18, Harris
3-4 0-1 9, Olson 2-7 0-0 6, Podbelsek 2-5 0-0 5, Gesner 1-4 0-0 3,
Cook 1-3 0-0 2, Bowlby 0-1 0-0 0. Team 16-32 2-4 43. 3-point field
goals 9-22 (Harris 3-4, Van Hook 2-2, Olson 2-7, Podbelsek 1-4,
Gesner 1-4, Cook 0-1). Rebounds 21 (Van Hook 7, Gesner 6), assists
13 (Gesner 6), turnovers 17.
Normal West (44)
Stewart 25, Bohl 5, Bronke 4,
Seibring 3, Keith 3, McGinnis 2, Durham 2. Team 13-43 12-20 44.
3-point field goals 6-21 (Stewart 3, Bronke, Seibring, Keith).
Rebounds 35, assists 9, turnovers 14.
Scoring by quarters:
LCHS 9-9-11-8-6 43
NWHS 10-6-10-9-7 44
[By JEFF BENJAMIN]
Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles