Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Sports News

Defense leads Railers past Jacksonville

By Jeff Benjamin

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[January 17, 2012]  GLENWOOD -- When you see in the box score that the game-high scorer in a high school game gets 20 points, that usually means he or she had a good game. When that same player has more than the other team, that means your defense had a great game. 

The Lincoln Railers put forth their best defensive effort of the season on the opening night of the 2012 Meijer Winter Classic, handing Jacksonville a stifling 41-19 defeat. The win was a little payback for a two-point loss in Jacksonville in mid-December. 

Senior Christian Van Hook scored a game-high 20, with 14 of those in the second half. The win improves the Lincoln record to 8-10 and 3-4 in the conference. The 19 points given up represent a season-best defense, besting the previous two games giving up 24 points. 

Offensively, the Railers still have some issues to iron out, but the defense was at the top of its game, holding the Crimsons to quarter point totals of four, five, four and six respectively. The Crimsons made only five field goals for the entire game, none of those in the fourth quarter. 

The Railers have struggled when teams have been able to string together substantial runs against them. Not only did Jacksonville not have any runs to speak of, they never had an occasion when they scored any back-to-back points. On Monday night, Lincoln's "D" got a solid A grade. 

One aspect of the Railer offense that was notable was their passing, both good and bad. During the first half, Lincoln did an excellent job of throwing the ball inside and then quickly getting it back outside. The crispness of the passing usually resulted in wide-open shots from the outside or easy inside opportunities. 

The Railers actually kept Jacksonville in the game early by missing their first three shots, all easy attempts. The bad side of the passing was found in the turnovers caused by the no-look and needless passes on offense. Jacksonville scored the contest's first basket, which was finally answered by a 3 from Austin Kirby, getting his second start in a row. 

When the Crimsons' Dalton Keene hit two of three free throws after being fouled shooting a 3, Jacksonville enjoyed their final lead of the night at 4-3. The fouling of shooters, especially behind the line, became an issue during the game for the Railers. Van Hook scored two baskets in a row, followed by a bucket from Gavin Block to give Lincoln the lead 9-6 at the end of the first quarter. 

Jacksonville scored the first basket of the second, fouled in the process. After missing the free throw, the Crimsons again watched the Railers use sharp interior passing to grab easy scores from Edward Bowlby and Van Hook. Up 13-6, the flow of the game made it feel as though Lincoln should have been up by at least 15. Jacksonville got their only other points of the quarter on an old-fashioned three-point play, again fouling a shooter. Will Podbelsek's 3 from the left corner ended the scoring in the first half at 16-9. It certainly could, and should, have been more.   

With the first-half clock running down, the Railer offense seemed out of sorts. Usually the play begins with approximately 10 seconds left, but passes were still being made with under six. As Podbelsek caught a pass with about four seconds on the right wing, he dribbled through the Crimson defense, but his shot that went in came well after the buzzer. The end-of-quarter issues did not seem to please Lincoln coach Neil Alexander as his team headed to the locker room. 

[to top of second column]

For the second game in a row, the third quarter told the tale of the game. After suffering through only one point on Friday night, the Railers turned it around on Saturday, outscoring IVC 20-4. 

Monday night, it was more of the latter. A 16-4 smothering of Jacksonville stretched the lead to 19 at 32-13, and the game was essentially over.  Lincoln scoring in the second half was the same as how they started the first half, on a 3 from Kirby. Van Hook scored the next five, including an acrobatic reverse layup and old-fashioned three-point play. Max Cook's only basket of the night pushed the score to 26-9. The Railers got their final two baskets of the period on two 3s from Jake Olson.  

The fourth quarter was all Van Hook and Jacksonville free throw shooting. The senior scored all nine Lincoln points in the period, while the Crimsons struggled to score. Coming up empty in the field goal department, Jacksonville was fortunate the Railers kept fouling shooters, twice while they were behind the 3-point line. 

When the final buzzer sounded, it was another good effort from the Railers, and coach Alexander is hoping it continues to carry over.

"Wednesday is a big game for us," Alexander explained. "We have yet to win three in a row, and it would be big to do that. Taylorville has gotten a lot better, and we'll have to play well to win." 

On another night of getting scoring from many outlets, Van Hook's 20 led the way. No other Railer was in double figures as Kirby and Olson each scored six, Podbelsek hit for three, while Cook, Bowlby and Block added two each. All this and the Railers were able to come away with the big win while getting no points from their second-leading scorer, Jordan Gesner. 

The Railers will be back in action Wednesday night back in Chatham, taking on Taylorville. The Tornadoes opened the tourney by falling to Highland 52-50. It was a game they had a chance to win, including their half-court shot at the buzzer grazing the front of the rim, just that close from a huge win for Taylorville. Wednesday's game is scheduled to tip at 5 p.m., the first of the session, so it should be on time.   



Van Hook 9 1-2 20, Kirby 2 0-0 6, Olson 2 0-0 6, Podbelsek 1 0-0 3, Cook 1 0-0 2, Block 1 0-0 2, Bowlby 1 0-1 2, Gesner 0 0-0 0, Eimer 0 0-0 0, Hays 0 0-0 0, Heidbreder 0 0-0 0. Team  17 1-3 41. 3-point field goals 6 (Kirby 2, Olson 2, Podbelsek, Van Hook). 


Dugan 7, Pate 6, Jackson 2, Armstrong 2, Keene 2. Team 5 9-13 19. 

Scoring by quarters:

LCHS   9-7-16-9  41
JHS       4-5- 4-6  19 


Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles

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