Thursday, January 19, 2012
Sports News

Quick start sends Railers to 3rd straight win

By Jeff Benjamin

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[January 19, 2012]  The Lincoln Railers may want to pause a moment and thank Dr. James Naismith for the idea of having four quarters in a basketball game. If the contest against Taylorville on Wednesday night, the second night of the Meijer Winter Classic, had been only the last three quarters, the folks in Christian County would have been celebrating the end of a long, long conference losing streak.  

But thanks to the first quarter, Lincoln was able to extend their Meijer Winter Classic winning streak to 17 games and knock off the Tornadoes 46-33. The win improves their record to just one game below .500 at 9-10 and evened their Central State Eight mark at 4-4.

Over the past two games, the Railers were able to take control in the third quarter. Last night, they decided to hit the ground running from the opening tip. After winning the tip, the Railers jumped on top early on a 3 from freshman Gavin Block. It was the beginning of a double-figure night for Block, as it was for two other Railers.


Sophomore Max Cook added to the early Lincoln advantage by scoring on a layup and getting fouled. Cook converted the free throw as he started on a career night. Taylorville (1-17, 0-8) finally got on the board with a shot in the lane from Jeff McChristy.

Now, you know in the movies, when nitrous oxide is hooked up to a car to make it go really fast when it is activated? Well, after McChristy's basket, someone must have hit the button on the Lincoln dashboard. Through the end of the first quarter and into the early stages of the second, Lincoln ran off 17 in a row to take a commanding 23-2 lead.

"I think we had a great first quarter," Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said. "We passed the ball around well, took good shots."

Cook scored nine of his career-high 14 points in the first stanza, including two 3s. Christian Van Hook added four to end the quarter. Up 19-2 after the first, a driving Will Podbelsek driving layup and basket from Block stretched the Lincoln lead to 21.

Taylorville was finally able to get some points from their leading scorer, Kyle Wilhour. Five in a row brought the game to 23-7 in favor of the Railers. Another basket for Block, who joined in the double-figure crew with 10 points, his third time this season, put the Lincoln lead back to an 18-point margin. Up 27-10, Van Hook scored four of his 10 points to end the Railer scoring in the first half. A late basket from Taylorville put the halftime score at Lincoln 29, Taylorville 12.

The first three halves of basketball at this year's tournament will not be fondly remembered by Jordan Gesner. The senior came into the week as Lincoln's second-leading scorer but was scoreless over the first 48 minutes. Early in the third quarter, despite his lack of points, Gesner continued to play tough defense, as did his teammates. Gesner made a steal that led to a Lincoln fast break. When Gesner drove the left side of the lane, he saw a wide-open Cook on the right low block.

Showing how unselfish his game is, Cook, understanding the importance of getting Gesner back on track, kicked the pass right back over to Gesner, who laid it up and in. When Gesner hit from outside for his first 3 of the night, Lincoln went back up 35-17. A Block basket, on yet another nice pass from Cook, gave Lincoln their largest lead of the night at 40-18.

Now, for those who thought this one was over, and I'll admit you can count me as one, one only needed to look to Monday night to realize that even though Taylorville was stuck on one win, they were not an easy out. Had Jeff McChristy's shot at the buzzer gone down, the Tornadoes would have knocked off Highland.

The combination of Taylorville hitting shots that were being missed in the first half and the Lincoln squad knowing they were up 22 points created a bad combination. From the latter stages of the third quarter into the fourth, Taylorville ran off 10 in a row, and with about 4 1/2 minutes left, the Lincoln lead had been cut to 12.

The run came to an end when Cody Heidbreder hit a clutch 17-foot jumper for his only points of the night. The basket set the Railers on a 6-0 run to end their scoring for the night and put Lincoln up 46-28. Although Taylorville scored the game's final five points, it was not enough to pull off the shocker.

When Lincoln was penetrating and making good passes, the offense worked really well, especially when the ball was in the hands of Cook. However, Lincoln fell back into some bad habits, including shot selection. The unofficial stats compiled by the Glenwood staff showed the Railers hitting five of 28 shots from 3-point range. On a number of occasions, the Railers took 3s early in the possessions, getting offensive rebounds, only to hoist up more 3s.

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The Railers were led in scoring by the 14 from Cook, with Van Hook and Block each scoring 10. Gesner added five, and Austin Kirby hit a first-quarter 3-pointer. Podbelsek and Heidbreder both contributed a basket to round out the scoring.

So, if not for the first quarter, Taylorville outscored Lincoln 31-27. Now, that doesn't change the result of the game, but it is something in need of attention going into the three-game blitz this Friday and Saturday. Lincoln is next in action Friday night at 8 against the homestanding Titans, followed by a doubleheader on Saturday: at 11:30 against Rochester and at 6:30 versus Highland. Could the Railers win their fourth straight Meijer Winter Classic? Friday night will go a long way to determining that.



Cook 5 2-2 14, Van Hook 3 4-6 10, Block 4 1-2 10, Gesner 2 0-0 5, Kirby 1 0-0 3, Podbelsek 1 0-0 2, Heidbreder 1 0-0 2, Olson 0 0-0 0, Bowlby 0 0-0 0, Hays 0 0-0 0, Eimer 0 0-0 0. Team 17 7-12 46. 3-point field goals 5 (Cook 2, Block, Gesner, Kirby).

Taylorville (33)

Wilhour 17, A.Peters 6, McChristy 5, Jackson 3, Norville 2. Team 11 6-11 33. 3-point field goals 5 (Wilhour 4, McChristy).

Scoring by quarters:

Lincoln       19-10-11-6 46
Taylorville    2-10- 8-13 33



  • The win marked the first time this season the Railers have won three in a row.

  • Lincoln has now led at the end of 12 straight quarters.

  • Has the addition of Kirby and Cook to the starting lineup succeeded in getting Lincoln off to good starts? Well, in the three games, the Lincoln defense has given up a total of 14 points in the first quarter and 93 points (31.0/game) total.

  • The Railers improved to 4-1 in games with three players in double figures.

  • If you plan on being at Saturday morning's game, realize you will be witnessing a milestone in the Railer program. The contest against Rochester will be game No. 2,500 in the long tradition of Lincoln basketball. Through the first 2,498 games, the Railers are 1627-871.


Jeff Benjamin's Railer basketball articles

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