Lincoln builds big lead, survives Althoff's 4th-quarter rally to win Collinsville tourney

News-DemocratDecember 28, 2013 

— Fletcher Gym was the Land of Lincoln in the 30th annual Collinsville-Schnucks Holiday Classic.

The top-seeded Railsplitters (11-0) completed a dominant performance in the tournament Saturday when they outlasted No. 3 Althoff 66-56 in the championship game.

The Railsplitters avenged a 58-51 loss to the Crusaders in the 2008 title game. Their wins came by an average margin of nearly 27 points and they set a tournament record with 44 3-pointers.

"We're rolling right now and we hope to continue this," said Lincoln senior guard Max Cook, who was named the Classic's Most Valuable Player. "We were real pleased with the way we played down here. We feel we're starting to click and play like we know we can --like we did over the summer. We're feeling good."

Seniors Gavin Block (21 points) and Edward Bowlby (19) paced Lincoln, which was 10-for-19 on 3-pointers. The Railsplitters led 35-18 at halftime, then survived a furious comeback attempt by the Crusaders (8-3) in the fourth quarter.

Lincoln won its first tournament since 2009.

"For three quarters, we pretty much controlled the game," Railsplitters coach Neil Alexander said. "But we didn't control the fourth quarter. They did a nice job of fighting back."

Althoff trailed 34-18 at halftime and 55-40 midway through the fourth quarter. But sophomores Keenen Young and Brendon Gooch hit 3-pointers to cut Lincoln's advantage to 55-46 with 3:55 left.

Lincoln seemed to re-establish control on Bowlby's three-point play, but Gooch (15 points, seven rebounds) hit a 3-pointer from the left corner while being fouled by Block, and his ensuing free throw brought Althoff within 58-50 at the 3:09 mark.

Crusaders freshman Marvin Bateman nailed a 3 to make it 58-53 with 2:21 left, and a layup by freshman Jordan Goodwin (27 points) brought Althoff closer at 58-55 with 1:55 remaining.

Bowlby's three-point play moments later enabled the Railsplitters to avoid a meltdown, and they secured the victory on a free throw by Block and a runout by senior Joey Olden.

"It was a great testament to the boys," Crusaders coach Greg Leib said. "They hung in there and kept battling. They started playing keepaway and we were able to get out in some passing lanes when they weren't attacking the basket. We got ourselves back into it."

Alexander said the Crusaders' comeback was a reminder to his players that there's more work to be done.

"When you come play tournaments, you want to play good teams because they tell you or show you what your weaknesses are," Alexander said. "The fourth quarter was a weakness for us because we tried to run a little clock and then we would shoot a 3.

"We were in the bonus. Let's get to the basket and get to the free-throw line. Those are things these guys have got to learn and understand to do. If we do that, we learn from this fourth quarter."

Cook headed the all-tournament team with his MVP award. Others named to the team were: Bowlby and Block; Althoff's Gooch and Goodwin; East St. Louis' Jeremiah Tilmon; Belleville East's Darreon Reddick; Oakville's Ervin Sarajlic and Austin Gillmann; and Springfield Southeast's Jalen Henry.

East St. Louis 47, Belleville East 44

After semifinal losses, Southwestern Conference rivals Belleville East and East St. Louis had to dig deep in the third-place game.

In the end, the Flyers overcame a 24-20 halftime deficit and held on to defeat East for the second time in December.

Junior Terry Beckner scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Flyers (10-3), who also defeated the Lancers 48-38 on Dec. 13 in East St. Louis. Sophomore Antonio Johnson had 13 points and senior Dominic Nelson had 10.

"I'm happy we bounced back," said Flyers coach Tony Young, whose team was defeated by Althoff 63-53 in the semifinals. "The guys were tired --two games in one day, quick turnaround. I'm proud of the way they came out in the second half. They came out that second half with a lot of energy."

The Flyers led 45-41 when Reddick hit a 3-pointer. East then grabbed a missed shot by the Flyers and called timeout with 31.3 seconds remaining.

Reddick missed a baseline jumper, but senior Brady Schanuel kept the rebound alive, which was controlled by Reddick. However, Reddick's shot with three seconds left was no good, and Beckner made two free throws with 1.5 seconds left.

A desperation heave from 50 feet by Lancers freshman EnRico Sylvester was way off the mark as the horn sounded.

Senior Austin Cox led the Lancers (7-5) with 13 points, while Sylvester had 12 and Reddick had 10 on 4-for-15 shooting. All of Sylvester's points came on 3-pointers.

Lancers coach Abel Schrader was disappointed. East shot just 40 percent (16-for-40) and was charged with 18 turnovers.

"How many turnovers did we have?" Schrader said. "We had to have 20-some. "It is what it is. We can't turn the basketball over in key possessions and think we're going to beat anybody --with casual, one-hand, no-look passes. I don't understand that."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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