Cyclones' perfect first-quarter shooting prepels SH-G to 57-48 win of Lincoln

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[February 22, 2024]  Springfield -- The Railer boys basketball team battled back from the best knockout punch Sacred Heart-Griffin had to offer—a perfect field goal percentage in the first quarter. In the end, however, it simply was too much for Lincoln to overcome as the Cyclones hit clutch free throws down the stretch to defeat LCHS 57-48.

“They shot it exceptionally well,” said Lincoln head coach Neil Alexander. “Our kids really hung in there; they fought and they played hard. Unfortunately, we just came up short.”

SH-G’s Zion Lee opened the scoring when he hit a 3-pointer almost 90 seconds into the opening period. The Cyclones would go on to hit all their field goal attempts--6 3-pointers and 2 2-pointers—in the quarter. The lone missed shot for SH-G was a missed free throw attempt by Chucky Lanier, who hit his other attempt from the charity stripe in the stanza.

The final points of the quarter came as the period was ending when Bryce Musgrave, who led with 9 points in the period, hit a halfcourt shot that bounced a couple times on the rim before falling through as the buzzer sounded. That put an exclamation point on a first period in which the Cyclones went 8 for 8 from the field and hit 9 of their 10 total shots including free throws to build a 23-13 advantage entering the second quarter.

While the margin ebbed and flowed throughout the middle two quarters, the teams each matched the point totals of their opponents, with both squads scoring 8 points in the second quarter and 13 points in the third period. SH-G managed to extend its lead to 15 near the midway point of the third quarter, but Lincoln outscored the Cyclones 11-6 in the remainder of the period to cut the Railers’ deficit to 44-34.

Karson Komnick

Lincoln outscored SH-G 7-2 in the first 4 minutes of the final stanza to trim the lead to 46-41. Musgrave then hit a free throw for the Cyclones before Karson Komnick drove into the lane and hit a shot to cut the lead to 4 at 47-43.

However, Lincoln could get no closer the rest of the way. Following four straight made free throws by SH-G, Trey Schilling hit a 3-pointer and Drew Hayes made a free throw to again cut the deficit to 4 points at 51-47. SH-G iced the game from the free throw line, going 4-for-4 the rest of the way and getting another field goal from Lanier. The Railers could only muster a single free point on a made free throw by Aidan Gowin. In the fourth quarter, SH-G went 9-of-12 from the free throw line as the Cyclones improved their record to 14-18 with a 57-48 win.

While Sacred Heart-Griffin led from the opening score to the final buzzer, at no point did the Railers have the appearance of a team that had given up and conceded to the Cyclones. As Lincoln clawed its way back from the first quarter shellshock, it did so as it has all season with relentless defense. Lincoln guards Ki’on Carson and Gowin were on the floor diving after loose balls and trying to force turnovers to help the Railers get back into the game. But Lincoln never found its flow offensively while SH-G’s hot shooting set the tone early for the Cyclones.

Overall SH-G shot 68 percent (17 of 25) from the field in the game while Lincoln made 19 of 47 (40.4 percent). Lincoln could muster only 40 percent (4 of 10) from the free throw line while the Cyclones hit 14 of 18 (77.8 percent), including 13 of 16 in the second half.

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Coach Neil Alexander

“It was a tough team for us to cover defensively,” Alexander said. “But we had our chances and we hung tough. I’m proud of the kids. It was an effort like we like to see our kids make; unfortunately, they had to come up on the short end.”

In the weeks leading up to the postseason, Alexander expressed concern about his team’s rebounding, saying that aspect of the game would be a major determining factor in the Railers’ success. SH-G outrebounded Lincoln 26-10 in the contest.

While Lincoln did force 19 turnovers while committing only 3, SH-G’s hot shooting, domination on the boards and free throw advantage were too much for the Railers to overcome playing from behind for the entire game.

“We didn’t make our free throws, which would’ve made a difference in the game because of the score and the way you play at that point,” Alexander said. “But that’s part of the game; you’ve got to make them, you’ve got handle it.

“We were out of character the way we had to play the last 12 minutes of the game.”

Drew Hayes

Drew Hayes was the only Railer in double figures with 16 points. Komnick added 8, Trey Schilling tallied 6, Gabe Smith scored 5, Gowin and Frank Sanders chipped in with 4 apiece, Brady Miller added 3 and Ki’on Carson scored 2.

SH-G’s Lee led all scorers with 24 points. Cam Bankman scored 14 and Bryce Musgrave added 12.

The loss in Lincoln’s opening game of the IHSA Class 3A Lanphier regional eliminates the Railers from the postseason. The Railers end the season with a 22-10 overall record.

The defeat also brings to a close the Railer basketball careers of Trey Schilling, Aidan Gowin, Ki’on Carson and Kani Carson.

Sacred Heart-Griffin will face the host school Lanphier for the regional championship on Friday, Feb. 23. Lanphier defeated Southeast 53-31 to advance.

[Loyd Kirby]

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