MATTOON -- Lincoln, known for its 1-2-2 ball-court press, shut down Mattoon for the opening 6:58, taking a 15-0 lead before the Green Wave ended the opening quarter of the Apollo Conference boys' basketball game with a basket by Jaydon Noe, who stole the ball for one of only five Lincoln turnovers. Mattoon battled back to within eight in the third quarter, but the Railsplitters went on to win 62-33. It was the home opener for the Green Wave.
The Railsplitters, 5-2 overall and 2-0 in the Apollo, used a patient offense in the opening quarter, making 7-of-12 from the field.
"It was not a good start especially against a good team like Lincoln," said Mattoon coach Ryan Ghere. "You can't dig that big of a hole early."
The Green Wave got to within 10 points on two occasions in the second quarter, the first coming after a pair of free throws by DeAndre Thomas, a 6-6 senior, with 6:39 left. Thomas had a putback to make it 19-9 with 6:02 left in the half. Lincoln led 30-15 at the break, scoring on a last second rebound by Colton Holliday, a 6-5 junior.
Mattoon had just nine turnovers at half, but finished with 24, while Lincoln, coached by Neil Alexander, who is in his 28th year and is currently 628-216, made half of their 28 field goal attempts.
The Green Wave started strong in the third quarter as Jacob Spitz sank a three-pointer and after a bucket by Lincoln's Ben Gruder, Jadyn Princko hit back-to-back three-pointers over a 1:44 span. The second one occurred after a Lincoln timeout. MHS trailed just 32-24 with 3:43 left in the third.
"I thought the kids battled back and competed," said Ghere. "They took care of the ball better in the second and the first part of the third quarter. Most of our turnovers were in the half-court. Anytime we got the ball inside to DeAndre (Thomas) good things happened. We just had too many turnovers. That is 24 possessions where you don't get a chance to score. Even if you take half of those and you score on six to eight possessions that is 12-16 points."
Lincoln went 13-of-18 (.722) in the final 11:15 from the field starting with a basket by Isaiah Bowers, who led all players with 24 points. The Railsplitters outscored MHS 30-9 the rest of the way. Titus Cannon's steal and layup and four straight points by Jeremaine Hamlin, a 6-9 junior, pushed the Railsplitters lead back up to 40-24. On top of that, Lincoln, who is in its first year of the Apollo, ended the quarter with a three-pointer onan out of bounds play by Bowers for a 19-point cushion.
"Lincoln's kids have been in the system for four years," said Ghere. "I watched them on film and showed the kids Monday. They run there offense for about a minute and kind of lull you to sleep. Then they set up in a box set and run a special play and they are wide open for a 15-footer, layup or a lob. There system is fine tuned. Their coach has been there forever and they know what they are going to do every time and they all know their role and they do it. "
Lincoln's Isaac Dewberry scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth as the Railsplitters made their first six field goal attempts.
Thomas led Mattoon, which fell to 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the conference, with 11 points.
"I thought DeAndre played really well tonight," said Ghere. "He competed and we just have to get our guard play better. I thought watching film we could rebound and get out and run with them and get some easy baskets. We did a little bit, but other times we made bad decisions. They do a good job of getting back. When it is not there we need to pull it out and run some offense and make them work. We are still young. We start four juniors and these kids are learning on the fly. We are still putting in some tweaks to the system. We are going to keep getting better."
MHS was 5-of-19 from beyond the three-point line (.263) and 12-of-32 (.375) from the field overall, while Lincoln finished 3-of-7 from beyond the three-point line (.429) and 28-of-52 (.558) overall.
Lincoln won its Apollo Conference opener 56-21 over Taylorville. The Green Wave fell to Effingham 55-39.
Mattoon is to travel to Mount Zion Friday for another conference game.
The Mattoon junior varsity was right with Lincoln after the opening quarter, trailing just 12-11. However, the Railsplitters broke the game open with a 22-4 second quarter en route to a 52-34 win over the Green Wave. Lane Roley led Mattoon, 1-1, with 11 points.