Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Sports News

Railers fall short against Cahokia 48-40

By Jeff Benjamin

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[November 22, 2011]  The 2011-2012 Lincoln Railer basketball season did not get off to the start Railer fans were hoping for, with the team falling to Cahokia 48-40. However, Railer Nation did get a glimpse of what kind of team this is and what they will have to do to be successful this season. Yes, an eight-point loss can have a lot of teaching moments.  

It has been a few years since Lincoln started a season 0-1, but coach Neil Alexander was very pleased with the effort his squad put forth, especially during the first 2 1/2 quarters.

"I think we played very well, but Cahokia is a good team. They are long. I think in the second half we just got tired," Alexander said.

With graduation taking away three starters from last year and an injury hitting another, the inexperience certainly was not evident at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium on Monday night. 

It seems fitting that the one returning starter from last season, senior Jordan Gesner, scored Lincoln's first points of the season, hitting for 3 near the top of the key at the 6:25 mark of the first quarter. The rest of the quarter belonged to Christian Van Hook. The 6-4 senior scored the final nine points of the quarter for Lincoln, including a couple of lobs and a 3 from the corner at the buzzer to cut the deficit to 15-12 at the end of the period. 

The 3 from Van Hook started an 11-0 run for the Railers, propelling them from down three to up five at 20-15, forcing Cahokia to take a timeout to settle their squad. Gesner's 3 started the second-quarter scoring, followed by five more from Van Hook.

Although Van Hook and Gesner were handling the early scoring, it was Max Cook who may have had the most impressive start to the season. Cook, only a sophomore, was given the responsibility of running the point for the Railer offense. Never looking too rattled or out of place, Cook made sure the Lincoln offense ran crisp and tight. It was the patience and precision of the Lincoln movement that allowed them to hang on in the first half. Cook's only points of the first half came from the free-throw line.

Up 21-27, the Comanches ran off six in a row to take a 23-21 edge, but Gesner tied it at 23. Like the end of the first quarter, the Railers saved their best drama for the end. After missing a couple of shots in the last 10 seconds of the quarter, the ball ended up in the hands of sophomore Edward Bowlby. Bowlby grabbed the rebound and flipped it toward the basket, watching it drop through just as the buzzer sounded. Two quarters, two buzzer-beaters, this last one giving the Railers a 25-23 halftime lead. 

It didn't take long for Cahokia to tie the game at 25. In what is certainly a glimpse of things to come, Lincoln (0-1) took the lead right back on a driving left-hand layup by Cook, who completed the three-point play by making the free throw. Cook's first step left the Cahokia defender just a bystander while his Comanche teammates allowed the sophomore to make his way to the basket. Cahokia answered with their own three-point play. Another jumper from Cook put the Railers up 30-28, their last lead of the night.

A quick 5-0 spurt put Cahokia up 33-30. The Railers cut it back to one after Cahokia rebounded a missed shot, but junior Will Podbelsek was there to grab it away under the basket and lay it in. Cahokia scored at the end of the quarter to hold a 35-32 lead after three. 

A 3 by the Comanches (1-0) extended the lead to 38-32, punctuating a 10-2 run by Cahokia. The Railers kept it close, thanks to baskets from Cook and Van Hook. The size and strength of Cahokia appeared to take its toll on the Railers, who played only six in the contest. The jumpers that were going down in the first half were falling short, possibly from tired legs. Defensive plays and loose balls that were going the Railers'  way were not being made and were ending up in Cahokia's hands. The Railers could only get within two late in the game, the last time at 42-40. Cahokia closed out the game well, tallying the final six points of the contest to pull away for the eight-point win, 48-40.

[to top of second column]

Van Hook led the Railers with a career-high 18 points, while Cook also reached double figures for the first time in his career with 10. Gesner added eight, with Podbelsek and Bowlby each scoring a basket. 

The Railers will be back in action Wednesday night at 8, taking on Danville. The Vikings fell to Champaign Centennial 67-63 Monday night. The other final from the first night of the Eaton Electrical Round Robin Tournament saw Seton Academy handling Morton 73-53. 

So, first game is in the books. First impressions?  The Railers will win some games this year, that is a certainty. Will they win games like they have in the past?  Not yet. This team will have to give every effort possible, but, even in just the first game, there are things to like. Sizewise, the Railers will usually never be the biggest on the floor. As they say, you can't measure heart, and you can tell this team has that. One item that should not go unnoticed was the defense took three charges in the game, two from Bowlby and the other from Cook. In games where they may not come out on top, the opposing team should know that the kids wearing the red and the green do not take that responsibility lightly. Every game this team plays will give them the opportunity to get better. Who knows? If a couple of loose balls or breaks go their way on Monday, I might be telling you about a Railer win.   

It is a young team, in both class rank and experience, but seeing this team take its first step, I can't wait to watch them grow up right before our eyes.


Lincoln (40)

Van Hook 8-17 0-0 18, Cook 4-7 2-3 10, Gesner 3-6 0-0 8, Podbelsek 1-4 0-0 2, Bowlby 1-2 0-0 2, Olson 0-6 0-0 0. Team 17-42 2-3 40. 3-point field goals 4-20 (Gesner 2-5, Van Hook 2-7, Bowlby 0-1, Podbelsek 0-3, Olson 0-4.  Rebounds 23. Turnovers 14. 

Cahokia (48) 

Minor 19, Austin 11, Jackson 7, Jennings 5, Rivers 2, Smoot 2, Tucker 2. Team 19-47 6-7  48. 3-point field goals 4-14. Rebounds 30. Turnovers 12. 

Scoring by quarters:

LCHS  12-13-7-8
CHS    15-8-12-13 

Catching up with the Railers of the past 

As I mentioned in Monday's preview article, if you know of any Railer alumni who have continued their basketball careers at the collegiate level, please contact me through LDN and I will be glad to try to keep up with them. One reader did that, so along with Jordan Nelson, Nathaniel Smith and Ben Brackney, you can also keep up with former Railer Louie Schonauer, currently enjoying the warm weather at Nova Southeastern University. Listed below are his stats as well as the next game for everyone: 

  • Schonauer (Nova SE 2-2) -- 4 games, 6.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg; next game Nov. 29 at West Georgias

  • Nelson (Evansville) -- Nov. 23 at UIC

  • Smith (Loras) --  Nov. 26 at University of Chicago

  • Brackney (Bucknell) -- Nov. 22 at Marist


Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles

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