Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Sports News

Railers drop pair to finish tournament 2-3

By Jeff Benjamin

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[November 29, 2011]  Sometimes the hardest thing about winning is learning how to do it in the first place. The current version of the Railers may have learned that lesson Saturday night, falling just short of knocking off Morton and finishing in a three-way tie for second place. As it was, Jordan Gesner's last-second baseline jumper missed the mark and the Potters escaped with a hard-fought 33-31 win over the Railers. The loss dropped Lincoln below .500 to start the season at 2-3.   

The contest to wrap up the Eaton Electrical Round Robin Tournament was a defensive battle from opening tip to final buzzer. Of the eight team quarters, only twice did a team hit double figures. Both teams were content to pass the ball around the perimeter, looking for the best shot. Those "best"  shots were few and far between as both squads excelled on the defensive end of the court. In the end, Morton made a few more plays and came away with the win. 

Once again, the Railers were facing a size mismatch. Morton's top player, and Siena recruit, 6-9 Brett Bisping, posed an inside threat as well as an outside scoring punch.

However, the first part of the game belonged to Christian Van Hook. The senior hit a 3 to open the scoring, starting a run of Van Hook scoring the first 10 points for the Railers in the contest. The only other points for the Railers came from Max Cook on a play created by Edward Bowlby. Bowlby, instead of getting a rebound, tipped a missed shot to Cook underneath for an easy two.

As said before, offense was certainly at a premium, with a first-quarter score of Morton 6-5 and the Potters remaining in the lead at the half 14-12. 

An early basket out of the locker room by Cook tied the game at 14. The Potters went on an 8-2 run to take their biggest lead of the night at 22-16. Both teams traded baskets the rest of the way. Just as the Railers would draw close, Morton would answer to take another step ahead. Undeterred, Lincoln stayed in the contest and would get a little closer. Down 32-28, Gesner connected for his second 3 of the night to pull the Railers to within one. Forced to foul, Lincoln sent Morton's Will Headen to the line. The 6-4 senior made the first but missed the second, giving the Railers a final shot. With five seconds to go, the Railers inbounded from the sideline to Gesner, who drove the baseline and tossed up a 12-footer that missed the mark. Just that close -- but still not close enough. 

The Railers had only three players in the scoring column for the night. Van Hook, Lincoln's only representative on the all-tournament team, scored a game-high 18 points, while Cook added seven and Gesner had six.   



Van Hook 8-11 1-1 18, Cook 3-6 1-1 7, Gesner 2-6 0-0 6, Podbelsek 0-4 0-0 0, Olson 0-2 0-0 0, Harris 0-2 0-0 0, Hays 0-0 0-0 0, Bowlby 0-2 0-0 0. Team 13-33 2-2 31. 3-point field goals 3-14 (Gesner 2-3, Van Hook 1-2, Cook 0-1, Bowlby 0-1, Olson 0-2, Harris 0-2, Podbelsek 0-3).  Rebounds 15 (Bowlby, Gesner 3), assists 5 (Cook 3), turnovers 8.  

MORTON (33) 

Bisping 16, Headean 7, Swinford 6, Dullard 2, Rossi 2. Team 11 9-11 33. 3-point field goals 2 (Bisping, Swinford)  Rebounds 22, assists 1, turnovers 12. 

Scoring by quarters:

Morton    6-8-12-9
LCHS      5-7-6-13 


Saturday morning started with the Railers facing Seton Academy, the eventual tournament champion. The Sting finished 5-0 for the week, and could score at will, putting up 90-plus points on two occasions. How important was defense to the Railers on Saturday morning?  They were going over adjustments and schemes in the back gym before suiting up and taking the court. Whatever they did must have worked. Although the Sting posted a 52-41 win over the Railers, the 52 points scored by Seton Academy was 15 less than their next lowest scoring game. 

It appeared we were headed for another offensive show by Seton. The Railers had the lead at 17-16 on the strength of a Gesner 3-pointer. When the first-quarter dust had settled, the Sting held a 21-17 lead over the Railers.

It was encouraging to see the intensity and effort from the Railers. In past tournaments, the Saturday morning game has proven to be troublesome due to the early hour. Lincoln came out bested in both speed and size, but as Railer Nation has come to expect, it would take quite an effort to outdo them in hustle and effort.   

Whether it was trying to force Lincoln to score from the outside or just giving a zone a try for use later in the season, Seton Academy went to a zone during the second quarter. It did its job as Van Hook scored the only basket of the quarter for Lincoln. An unexpected side effect was the zone also sapped the offensive firepower of Seton Academy as the Sting managed to score only six points, on one 3-point basket and three free throws.   

[to top of second column]

Up just eight, 27-19, at the half, Seton Academy switched back to their normal offensive and defensive sets. A quick five-point run stretched out the Sting run to 16-2 and a 32-19 lead. The Railers were playing with a newfound confidence that helped them stay close. Key to the third quarter was the Railers finding their 3-point range, getting long shots from Will Podbelsek, Cook and Gesner. The teams played to a 16-all tie in the quarter, setting up a fourth quarter with Lincoln down 43-35. 

An early fourth-quarter 3 from Bowlby cut the deficit to five at 43-38. It was at that point that Seton Academy took control of the boards and was able to string together another eight-point run to go back up by 13. The Railers ran out of time and the Sting picked up the win 52-41. 



Gesner 3-10 2-4 11, Van Hook 4-7 2-2 10, Cook 3-5 1-1 8, Podbelsek 2-5 0-0 6, Bowlby 1-2 0-0 3, Harris 1-1 0-0 3, Olson 0-5 0-0 0, Hays 0-1 0-0 0. Team 14-36 5-7 41. 3-point field goals 8-24 (Gesner 3-8, Podbelsek 2-5, Harris 1-1, Bowlby 1-1, Cook 1-3, Van Hook 0-1, Olson 0-5). Rebounds 21 (Gesner 7), assists 10 (Cook, Van Hook 4), turnovers 12. 


Shasi 14, Tolliver 8, Weems 7, Seaton 6, Foster 6, Robinson 6, Patterson 3, Woods 2. Team 19-48 7-10 51. 3-point field goals 7-23 (Shasi 3, Seaton 2, Weems, Foster). Rebounds 34, assists 9, turnovers. 

Score by quarters: 

Seton     21-6-16-9
LCHS    17-2-16-6 


It is a strange week for the Railers with a game on Thursday, but no games on either Friday or Saturday. Lincoln will be at home this Thursday, playing host to Normal West. The unavailability of the gym this weekend forced the Railers to move the game to the odd night. Tip time is scheduled for 7:30. 

So the 2011 Eaton Electrical Round Robin Tournament is in the books. Was it the most successful five-game season-opening stretch the Railers have ever seen? Of course not. However, I would be surprised if some lessons learned during this past week of basketball don't show up later in the season and lead to wins.   

The final standings went this way (along with any all-tournament team members):

  • Seton Academy 5-0 (Kamal Shashi, J.R. Tolliver and Mark Weems)

  • Morton 4-1 (Brett Bisping and Will Headen)

  • Cahokia 3-2 (Keenan Minor)

  • Lincoln 2-3 (Christian Van Hook)

  • Centennial 1-4 (none)

  • Danville 0-5 (Dennis Hightower) 

As a reminder, the Lincoln Junior High seventh-grade girls will play in the sectional final on Wednesday against Washington Central. The game is scheduled for 6 p.m. and is being played in Downs. The winner will advance to this weekend's elite eight.


Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles

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