MAHOMET – The gym was packed. The Dawg Pound was blacked out. A win would’ve given Mahomet-Seymour sole possession of first place in the Apollo Conference.
Seventh-ranked Lincoln didn’t care.
Playing the Railsplitters is like signing up for a root canal. Legendary head coach Neil Alexander always has his team well-prepared for every challenge.
Lincoln’s gameplan was to make the Bulldogs uncomfortable on their home floor. They weren’t going to let M-S star Grant Coleman get hot.
Mission accomplished. Coleman didn’t score until there were just 44 seconds left in the first half, and Lincoln cruised to a 70-51 victory.
“They’re so relentless,” Bosch said. “Their kids play so hard. They stick to their script so well. You try to simulate it as best you can, but it’s hard to prepare for. We took a punch from them there to start the game. They get on you early and make it so hard to come back.”
Lincoln used some 1-2-2 full-court pressure which really got the Bulldogs out of their comfort zone early. Kaden Froebe scored eight of his 23 points in the first quarter, as Lincoln scored 10 of their first 13 points off M-S turnovers.
Froebe was one of four Lincoln players that reached double-digits. Kameron Whiteman scored 16 points, Will Ewald poured in 15 and Dylan Singleton finished with 10.
M-S trailed 30-16 at the half, but Braden Finch scored the first five points of the second half. Kobe Essien slipped to the rim and Coleman found him with a gorgeous dime to cut the M-S deficit to 11 at 34-23.
But in typical Lincoln fashion, they weren’t rattled by the Bulldogs’ run. Lincoln scored 32 of their 40 second-half points thanks to easy layups.
“The kids were super coachable at halftime, and we were able to get the ball through the basket a little bit better in the second half but we were just trading baskets because we were gassed and they really stretched us out defensively,” Bosch said. “Tip your hat to them. We weren’t a good basketball team tonight.”
Essien scored 10 of the Bulldogs’ 15 points in the third quarter. The senior forward was active around the bucket as he tried to spearhead a comeback, but it wasn’t in the cards.
Finch finished with 21 points and four rebounds. Essien chipped in 14 points and five rebounds. Coleman was held to just eight points.
“We’ve been a very resilient team before,” Bosch said. “We’ve been in holes and dug our way out. I think it was the aggressive attack of Lincoln. I’m not quite sure it was. I want to move past it. I thought our kids were much better in the second half. If we can get 32 minutes of that, I think it would be much better.”
M-S dropped to 9-8 overall and 4-1 in the Apollo Conference. They are in second place behind Lincoln. In two weeks, they’ll get another shot at Alexander and the Railsplitters.
“They are definitely the best-coached, well-prepared team that we’ve faced,” Bosch said. “That showed in the second half when we tried to make a run. They were ready to respond right away. This was obviously a game with a full gym and a lot of adrenaline pumping. We have to turn around and play tomorrow morning. We don’t get time to sulk.”
Crete-Monee 47, M-S 45
After a disappointing performance against Lincoln on Friday night, the Bulldogs turned around and had to play an early-morning game on Saturday against Crete-Monee in the St. Joseph-Ogden Shootout.
Bosch was hoping for a bounce-back effort after the 19-point loss to Lincoln, but he didn’t get it.
The Bulldogs trailed 24-19 at the half, but they had a chance to pull off the comeback victory in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, M-S went just 4-for-11 at the free throw line and missed plenty of layups.
The Bulldogs trailed by one with 10 seconds left, but Coleman missed two free throws. Coleman had been nearly automatic from the charity stripe, shooting 81 percent this year.
Coleman had one more chance to win it, but his 3-pointer was off the mark at the buzzer. He still finished with a game-high 20 points to go along with five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Essien chipped in nine points and seven rebounds.
Eli Warren had six points while Tyler Uken added four points. Cole Lener dished out seven assists to go along with five rebounds and four steals.
“We were very sluggish and had a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes,” Bosch said. “I give credit to Crete-Monee’s kids for their effort and they deserved to win. We were not very good this morning.”
M-S 73, Mattoon 37
Coleman was on fire Tuesday against Mattoon. The senior poured in a career-high 44 points. He outscored Mattoon by himself. Coleman was 16-for-24 from the field and 5-for-7 from beyond the arc. He also nailed seven free throws. It was an epic performance for the Wisconsin-Milwaukee commit.
Eli Warren provided 10 points, three assists and three steals.
M-S will host Effingham on Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m. They’ll hit the road for two non-conference games next week. They’ll play at Washington at 7 p.m. on Jan. 21. Then, on Jan. 24, they’ll play at Dunlap at 7 p.m.