Monday, February 06, 2012
Sports News

Railers come back Saturday with an easy win over Senators

By Jeff Benjamin

Photo by Daniel Hemenway

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[February 06, 2012]  If Lincoln freshman Gavin Block is seen lobbying the Central State Eight to schedule the Senators from Springfield for all 16 conference games next season, I guess you can't blame a guy for trying. Block followed up his career high of 12 points from the first matchup against Springfield in early January with a game-high 11 points in the rematch on Saturday night, leading the Railers to a convincing 49-28 victory at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium.

There may have been concern in some circles that Lincoln might come out flat following Friday night's three-point loss to No. 1 Lanphier. But, on the contrary, the Railers seemed to use the confidence gained in almost knocking off the state's top team to jump out to a fast start and cruise to the win.

The Railers got an early lift on the offensive end from unlikely sources. Senior Austin Kirby took Lincoln's first three shots, connecting on two, both from behind the arc, to give Lincoln an early 6-2 lead. With the Springfield defense now forced to play Kirby a bit more honestly, the offense opened up for Block. The freshman scored the next eight points for the Railers, including a pair of 3-pointers, to give Lincoln an early double-digit lead at 14-4. Baskets from Max Cook and Will Podbelsek closed out the first quarter scoring with the Railers up 18-4.

The domination by the Railers (12-13, 6-7) continued in the second quarter. After the Senators scored the period's first basket, Lincoln went on another 8-3 spurt to jump out to a 26-9 lead. Included in that was a steal and basket from Cook, who seems to get at least one easy basket a game thanks to his quick hands and solid defense. In the waning seconds of the half, Jordan Gesner's shot missed the mark, but Christian Van Hook was in the right place at the right time, as his offensive rebound and putback dropped just as the horn sounded, and the Railers went to the locker room up 28-11. The 17-point margin matched the largest halftime lead enjoyed by the Railers.

Third quarter? Yep, more of the same. The intermission did not take away any of the momentum. Just as he did in the first quarter, Lincoln's first points of the third came from Kirby, this time on a cut to the basket and layup. The Senators made one more valiant attempt to get back into the contest with a brief 6-2 run to get back to within 15. The Railers were able to run off a 10-3 run to end the quarter, punctuated by a buzzer-beater from Edward Bowlby. Heading to the fourth, Lincoln was easily in command 42-20.

Driving layups from Podbelsek and Matt Hays continued the offense for the Railers to start the fourth, as Lincoln went up 46-20. After a free throw from the Senators, Podbelsek drained a 3-pointer to end Lincoln's scoring. Springfield (7-16, 3-10) was able to score the game's last seven points, but it did nothing but cut the final margin to 49-28. By holding Springfield to only eight points in the quarter, the Lincoln defense was able to hold Springfield to single-digit scoring in all eight quarters they have played this season.

Something the Railers have been looking for over the past few games, a better balance to the scoring attack, finally came about on Saturday night. Block led the way with 11 points, with Van Hook joining him in double figures with 10. Kirby's strong offensive night netted him eight points, with Podbelsek adding seven. Gesner finished with five points, all in the third quarter, with Cook scoring four. Lincoln got two points each from Bowlby and Hays.

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Even though they finished the weekend splitting the two games, it seemed like a really good weekend for the Railers. If this team can continue to play as they did over the past 64 minutes of action, there will definitely be more wins this season.

Of course, as important as the regular season is, coach Neil Alexander and his staff are always preparing their team for postseason play. This weekend was the final opportunity to make a case as to why they should receive a No. 1 seed in the Decatur Regional.

No. 1? Wait, this team is below .500. Yes, that's true, but going into the weekend they have more wins than the other teams (Bloomington, Decatur MacArthur and Eisenhower, and Mount Zion) with the Purple Raiders of Bloomington still looking for their first win of the season. If the schedule holds true, by the time the Railers tip off Friday night, we will know their seed and the path the IHSA has put in front of them. Of course, if the Railers can make it out of the regional and advance to sectional play, that round of games would be played at good ol' Roy S. Anderson. Every year, there seems to be a team with a record hovering around break-even as the tournament starts. Who says that team can't be the Railers?

The Railers will take to the floor on Friday night at SHG for their first game after receiving their postseason information. Lincoln will be looking for a little revenge after the Cyclones knocked off the Railers at home on Jan. 13 with a 42-36 win. Varsity tip time is scheduled for 7:30 at Jim Belz Gymnasium.



Van Hook 5 0-0 12, Cook 3 1-2 7, Block 3 0-0 6, Gesner 2 0-1 5, Podbelsek 1 0-0 3, Bowlby 1 0-0 3, Kirby 0 0-0 0, Olson 0 0-0 0, Hays 0 0-0 0. Team 15 1-3 36. 3-point field goals 5 (Van Hook 2, Podbelsek, Gesner, Bowlby).


Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles

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