LINCOLN — "Keep guarding, the shots will start falling," Mahomet-Seymour assistant coach Todd Metzger preached to his Bulldogs at the end of the first quarter.
Mahomet-Seymour ran with Metzger's instructions and played lockdown defense all night, but the shots neverfell, and Lincoln defeated the Bulldogs 45-26 last Friday night.
M-S shot just 9-for-30 from the field and 4-for-19 from behind the arc, and the No. 6 team in Class 3A took full advantage of the Bulldogs' offensive woes. The Railsplitters got 13 points from both Kaden Froebe and Will Ewald to improve to 16-2 overall and 8-0 in Apollo Conference play.
"This is a tough place to play, and Lincoln is obviously really good and you can't shoot 30 percent against them or you're going to lose," M-S head coach Ryan Bosch said. "I was really pleased and proud. They were locked in on the scouting reports. We were giving them a couple different thingson the fly and on the whiteboard, and they were executing."
M-S could muster just eight points in the first half against Lincoln's stifling 1-2-2-zone defense. Lincoln stretched the lead out to 27-10 near the end of the third quarter.
"They're so good at taking away what you want to do, and it's hard to replicate it in practice to prepare for it," Bosch said. "They're so active, they've got great hands. Then, they play hard."
At the start of the fourth quarter, Connor Kamphaus nailed back-to-back triples to bring the Bulldogs within 10. Then, Kamphaus delivered a sweet dish to Grant Coleman for a free-throw line jumper which trimmed the deficit to eight (28-20).
Lincoln wouldn't let the Bulldogs get any closer. Ewald delivered the dagger with a long three, and 6-foot-10 senior Jermaine Hamlin capped off a 17-6 run with a monster jam which sent the Lincoln student section into a tizzy.
The last time that M-S played Lincoln, the Railsplitters were able to score 65 points and beat the Bulldogs 65-59 on Dec. 18. Hamlin notched a team-high 17 points in the first meeting. But the Bulldogs shut him down all night, holding the powerful senior to just five points.
Great interior defense from Braden Finch and Lucas Turner stymied Hamlin for most of the game.
"I told the guys in the locker room, 'You guys guarded your butt off; you executed everything we asked of you to do,' " Bosch said. "I thought we had a lot of good shots actually. They just didn't go in. We've got to be about the process."
Despite the second-straight loss, Bosch left feeling very encouraged about the progress his team has made. The Bulldogs could've desperately used a few of their open looks from three to fall. Make those, and it's a completely different game.
Coleman finished with nine points, and Kamphaus had seven.
Senior guard Jack McHale came off the bench and added a ton of energy. McHale had one stretch where he took a charge and ripped down an offensive rebound and drained a three. The senior hasn't played a ton this season, but he finished with five points and four rebounds.
"Jack's been so good through this process," Bosch said. "He was struggling to see the ball go through the basket. I thought his defense has been coming along in practice. I couldn't be happier for any kid in our program. He wants it so bad. As a senior, as a team captain, to lead the way he's been despite the playing time? He absolutely deserveda little bit of a breakout, and I'm glad he got it tonight."
Despite the 19-point loss, Bosch is still confident that his young group will click.
"I'll tell you what, we're going to have one game where we go off," Bosch said. "They've fought hard and had a lot of faith and believed, and I've been so proud of them. Their record doesn't show it, but they've done some nice things down the stretch."
M-S 51, Canton 50. Coleman dropped 13 points, and Kobe Essien came off the bench to add 11, as the Bulldogs held off Canton 51-50 on Saturday. M-S jumped out to a 20-10 lead after the first quarter and held on for dear life as Canton hit nine triples which got them back in the game.
Kamphaus finished three-for-three from behind the arc and ended with nine points. Kamphaus had three rebounds and three steals.
Braden Finch had seven points thanks to one three and a 2-for-2 showing at the charity stripe. Jordan Veldman chipped in six points, six rebounds and a steal.
Cole Lener had a team-high eight rebounds to go along with four points and three steals.
M-S (8-12) will look to start the month of February off on the right foot. The Bulldogs will host Mount Zion at 7:30 p.m. today. Junior varsity action will start at 6.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs will travel to Effingham for an afternoon tilt. Junior varsity will start at 1 p.m. Varsity will tip off at 2:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, the Bulldogs will travel to Urbana for a nonconference showdown. Junior varsity will start at 6 p.m. with the varsity to follow.