Friday, December 30, 2011
Sports News

Railers bounce back against Dunlap

By Jeff Benjamin

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[December 30, 2011]  COLLINSVILLE  -- If instead of being at the 28th annual Schnuck's Holiday Classic in Collinsville, we were at the Winter Olympics, I'm not sure the French or Russian judge would have found a suitable number to score the performance in Thursday's Lincoln-Dunlap matchup.

Luckily, the game of basketball is not scored on style points, but points on the scoreboard. The Railers were only able to net 34 points, but that was 10 more than Dunlap and enough to propel Lincoln to its fourth win of the season and a spot in the final four of the consolation bracket.

To say Lincoln's 34-24 win over the Eagles was not pretty would be underestimating the meaning of the word. In fact, the game was historic. The combined 58 points for both teams broke the previous Classic low mark of 59 set in 1999 in a contest between Decatur MacArthur and SHG. However, in the end, getting the win is getting the win, and that's actually what the Railers did.

With both teams taking the court with records of 3-7, Lincoln tried to get off to a quick start. After winning the tip, Christian Van Hook was fouled while attempting to dunk an alley-oop pass from Jordan Gesner. What was troubling to Dunlap coach Jeff Barker is that Van Hook was awarded two shots. Barker felt the contact occurred before the Lincoln senior gained control of the ball. His protest fell on deaf ears, and Van Hook split the free throws.

Dunlap played an up-close and pressure man-to-man defense. Their aggressiveness was a weakness at times, as Lincoln's next basket would come on a Gesner back-door layup on a bounce pass from Jake Olson. Dunlap's leading scorer, Drew Angevine, got the Eagles on the board.

A key to the Railer win was holding Angevine to only those two points for the contest. Lincoln's other three points in the quarter came on free throws, another from Van Hook on another play where he was fouled going for the alley-oop and a pair from Max Cook, coming off the bench for the first time this season.

The Railers (4-7) scored the first five of the second quarter with another back-door basket from Gesner, this on a nice pass from Cook, and a 3 from Austin Kirby. His opportunity came on a nice pass from the baseline by freshman Gavin Block. Block, who played 21 minutes, and Edward Bowlby, who got the start in place of Cook and played 22 minutes, gave the Railers some of the intensity that was missing from Wednesday's loss to Belleville East.

In explaining the switch in the starting lineup, coach Neil Alexander said, "I thought Edward was one guy who really played hard yesterday. I thought it would be unfair not to reward him in some way."

It's also no surprise that both Bowlby and Block took defensive charges during the game, forcing Dunlap turnovers.

Ahhh, the turnovers. If there was one thing Dunlap was good at on Thursday, it was turning the ball over. Twenty-five times the Eagles missed opportunities, some due to the inspired play of the Lincoln defense, other times from just simple, unfocused mistakes.

After a Dunlap basket ended the 8-0 run, Lincoln got a pair of free throws from Will Podbelsek and a Gesner 3 from the top of the key to go up 16-4. The Railers extended their lead to 18-6 on a baseline drive from Block.

Although there was more competition in the Railers, that doesn't mean they still didn't have lapses. Dunlap was able to score four quick points at the end of the half, including a lay-in at the buzzer from Ryan Merkley to bring the game to 18-10 at intermission.

How was the first half? Well, probably all you need to know is that there were 28 total points and 28 turnovers. That certainly is not a recipe for an instant classic.

The second half did not get off to the start the Railers had hoped for, as Nathan Gosnell drained a 3 to pull Dunlap to within five at 18-13. Again, it was Bowlby who provided a much-needed spark for the Railers. His offensive rebound resulted in a basket for Van Hook.

On the next possession, Gesner hit his second 3 of the contest and Lincoln was back up by 10 at 23-13. Gesner had one of his better shooting games of the season, going 5 of 7 and making his only two 3-point attempts. Dunlap, which did not make a 3 in the first half, hit another from long range to close the third-quarter scoring at 23-16.

[to top of second column]

The hustle and effort that was very evident in the early stages of the game returned at the start of the fourth quarter.

Lincoln scored a quick six points to put the game well within the reach of victory. Bowlby scored on a play used a few years ago to start every game, usually with Josh Sutton the recipient. After another Dunlap turnover, Gesner scored on a layup on a long downcourt pass on an inbounds play.

Podbelsek's basket ended the run and put the Railers up 29-16. Another 3 from Dunlap brought the game to a margin of 10 again, but for every Dunlap score, Lincoln was able to answer back.

The Railers cinched the victory at the free-throw line. Foul shooting was one of the differences for the contest. Lincoln was 9 of 13 from the line, showing they could hit free throws when needed and that they were being more aggressive in getting to the basket. The 13 free throws against Dunlap matched the total free throws shot by the Railers in the past three games combined.

The victory puts the Railers in the 1 p.m. contest on Friday against Plainfield South, a team the Railers defeated last year 57-56. If the Railers are victorious in the early game, they will battle for the consolation title at 6:30. A loss would send Lincoln back home at 1-2 for the tournament.

"You come down here to play four games, to see what your strengths and weaknesses are," Alexander said. "We want to give these guys some confidence going into next week and the conference."

Lincoln was led by Gesner's 14 points, while Van Hook scored seven and Podbelsek added four. Kirby scored three on the early 3-pointer, with Bowlby, Cook and Block each scoring two. Defensively, the Railers held Dunlap to single-digit scoring in each quarter, while taking advantage of just enough Dunlap turnovers to outscore them 18-9 in points off turnovers.

Was Thursday a perfect game? No. Was it better than Wednesday? Yes. There are still some areas that Lincoln must improve on as the season nears the halfway point. Thursday was definitely a step in the right direction. You always hear talk of things getting worse before they get better. Who knows? When this season is reflected upon, the game on Wednesday may have been the valley and we are starting see this team make their climb up the hill, one step at a time.



Gesner 5-7 2-2 14, Van Hook 2-5 3-6 7, Podbelsek 1-5 2-2 4, Kirby 1-2 0-0 3, Bowlby 1-2 0-1 2, Cook 0-0 2-2 2, Block 1-2 0-0 2, Olson 0-1 0-0 0, Hays 0-0 0-0 0. Team 11-24 9-13 34. 3-point field goals 3-10 (Gesner 2-2, Kirby 1-2, Van Hook 0-1, Olson 0-1, Bowlby 0-1, Block 0-1, Podbelsek 0-2). Rebounds 14 (3 tied with 3), assists 8 (Block 3), steals 14 (Gesner 6), turnovers 20.

Dunlap (24)

Gosnell 6, VanDenAvond 4, Sorenson 4, Renner 3, Graham 3, Angevine 2, Merkley 2. Team 10-27 0-4 24. 3-point field goals 4-11 (Gosnell 2, Renner, Graham). Rebounds 21, assists 9, steals 7, turnovers 25.

Scoring by quarters:

Dunlap     2- 8-6-8
LCHS     6-12-5-11


Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles

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