Cahokia falls just short against Lincoln

News-DemocratMarch 18, 2014 

— Cahokia's last shot wasn't its best Tuesday.

Junior Montez Crumble's potential game-tying 3-pointer from 30 feet away rimmed out at the buzzer, allowing the Lincoln Railsplitters to hold on for a 40-37 victory in the Class 3A Springfield Super-Sectional at Prairie Capital Convention Center.

Crumble, who connected on two critical 3-pointers earlier in the second half, was slightly off-target on his final attempt as the Comanches' bid for the state tournament fell one victory short.

The result didn't set well with Cahokia coach Darian Nash, whose team finished 24-9 after placing second at state last year.

"I'm not going to say too much because I don't want to get in trouble," Nash said immediately after the game. "The officiating was terrible. We didn't get the calls. They pushed our guys.

"We did all we could do with the odds against us, with them being on their home court (Lincoln is about 25 miles from Springfield). We knew we weren't going to get any calls that would turn the game. We lost it, they won. They deserve the hype. ... Hats off to them."

Lincoln (33-2), which tied a school record in victories, will play Rockford Lutheran in the semifinals of the state tournament at 12:15 p.m. Friday at Carver Arena in Peoria. Rockford Lutheran defeated Peoria Notre Dame 71-60 in DeKalb Super-Sectional.

Senior Edward Bowlby and junior Gavin Block were the heroes for the Railsplitters, seeking their first state title.

Bowlby scored a game-high 19 points, going 6-for-6 from the field with four 3-pointers and 3-for-4 from the free-throw line. Block, meanwhile, had 17 points and put Lincoln ahead to stay at 38-37 with two free throws with 27.3 seconds remaining.

After Block's free throws, the Comanches called timeout with 13.4 seconds left. Senior Darius Austin tried to feed 6-foot-10 junior DeVonte Williams in the paint, but Bowlby came up with a steal and was fouled with 4.6 seconds left.

Bowlby's two free throws made it 40-37, setting up Cahokia's desperation shot from Crumble.

"I was in a zone," said Bowlby, crediting his teammates. "Gavin did a great job picking up for Max (Cook). Max is a great player. He got us here. He gets all the credit. I wouldn't have any of those shots if it wasn't for Max and Gavin and the guards. They set me up well.

"I had some confidence. Unlike past regional and sectional games, I was feeling it. This is awesome. It's the biggest game of my life."

Cook, Lincoln's senior point guard, scored just two points and was 0-for-5 from the field. Senior Joey Olden was the only player other than Bowlby and Block to have a basket, as the Railsplitters were 10-for-25 from (40 percent) the field against the long and athletic Comanches.

"They were physical," Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said. "That's a great team. They've lost (nine) games. But Coach Nash does a great job of bringing the team along and having them peak at the right time.

"We were scared to death of them. They've got shooters, they've got rebounders, they've got big kids that can handle it, they've got little guys who can shoot it, handle it, drive it. They had everything it took. Our guys held them to 37 points. I can't say enough about our kids."

Austin led the Comanches with 12 points and six rebounds. Crumble had 10 points and senior Carleton "C.J." Rivers had nine. Cahokia, which trailed 17-17 at halftime, was 14-for-29 (48 percent) from the field.

"It was a good battle," Nash said. "You're always disappointed when you don't win."

The game featured six ties and 12 lead changes. Each time Lincoln seemed to take control, Cahokia would make a clutch play.

With the Railsplitters leading 27-24 early in the fourth quarter, Austin had a three-point play to tie it with 7:11 left. Lincoln led 33-27 later in the period and was holding a 34-31 lead when Crumble hit a 3-pointer from the right corner to knot it at 34 with 2:29 to play.

Lincoln led 36-34 when Austin swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Comanches a 37-36 lead with 1:24 to play.

"We would get the lead and Cahokia would come back. They never quit," Alexander said. "We gave up transition baskets, we gave up second and third shots. They kept coming at us, but we did get them under control and force them to play a halfcourt game. That was one of our goals and keys."

After Austin's 3-pointer, Comanches senior Gary Hickman fouled Block as Block drove the right side of the lane, leading to his two free throws that gave the Railsplitters the lead for good at the 27.3-second mark.

"We're not done," Alexander said. "Our goal is to finish winning our last two. Whether we can do it or not, I don't know. We've got a chance at it, and that's all that counts."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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