LINCOLN -- It was as if Lincoln had extra arms on the court Friday night.
The Railers jumped every passing lane and forced the Taylorville boys basketball team into errant passes leading to 25 turnovers for the Tornadoes in Lincoln's 56-21 Apollo Conference victory.
Taylorville (2-3, 0-1) had more turnovers (25) than points (21) and field goals attempted (19).
All week the Railers played their sophomore team in preparation of Taylorville's offense which features four, and sometimes five, shooters on the court at once.
“It was pretty good, I missed a few skip (passes) I should have had, but I thought we played good defense," Lincoln senior guard Tate Sloan said of the defense. "Holding a team like that to 21 points, that’s good."
Lincoln led from the onset when Isaiah Bowers scored the first two of his game-high 25 points.
The Railers (4-2, 1-0) forced seven turnovers in the first quarter and 14 in the first half to open a 27-14 lead at halftime.
“We know a lot of the guys and we tried to come out and bring the intensity that (Lincoln) coach (Neil Alexander) brings every practice," Bowers said. "We tried to have that carry over. Tonight, it really helped. We thought that we came out, pressured the ball as best we could and executed the plan the way we needed to."
Bowers led Lincoln with five steals and Sloan added four. Titus Cannon and Ben Grunder each came up with three steals.
It's the exact style of defense Lincoln, and it's vaunted 1-2-2 zone, wants to play: force loose balls, hop on them and get into an offense.
The plan worked to perfection Friday.
“I thought we had active hands and that is a goal of ours," Alexander said. "We want to get deflections and we want people outside to trap for the ball and they’re the ones who have to be alert to be able to pick those up.
"We picked up a lot of loose balls. When you do that, it really makes your defense look pretty good."
Grunder and Cannon scored eight and six points, respectively.
Jordan Moats led Taylorville with eight points, going 6-of-7 at the free-throw line.
But the Taylorville offense struggled against the Lincoln defense. The Tornadoes shot 5-of-19 for the game, and only converted one shot from inside the 3-point line -- a layup by Moats midway through the third quarter.
“We had some careless turnovers, but a lot of turnovers they forced, too," Taylorville coach Ryan Brown said. "It was hard to run together four or five passes without them getting a fingertip on it."
The best yet?
Year in and year out, Lincoln is known for its standout defensive play. It's been a staple of Alexander's tenure with the team.
But Brown said it may be the best defensive unit he's seen the Railers trot out yet.
“That defense is as good a defense as I’ve ever seen in maybe my whole coaching career," Brown said. "It’s a different Lincoln team, it’s thick, it’s strong. You can’t just dump your way into the lane because they just won’t let you get in there. Then they can cover up 3s because they’re quick, too."
Alexander knows his defensive unit could be special, and he's taking the development day-by-day.
"We think we can be a very good defensive team, whether we can score or not, I don’t know," Alexander said. "We like to think our defense can get us some points."
Isaiah Bowers attempted more shots than the entire Taylorville team, going 11-of-24 from the field.
Bowers scored on spin moves, step backs, drives and 3-pointers.
He was a force to be reckoned with.
“Bowers had a great night tonight," Brown said. "We tried running different defenders and defenses at him, and in the end nothing worked. He was feeling good."
Running the defense to perfection
Sloan, a 5-foot-9, 135-pound senior ran the zone as flawlessly as they come.
He darted right to guard the top of the 3-point line, back to the left side of the arc.
His long arms caused fits for the Tornadoes.
“He’s got long arms. I thought he had a great game and I thought Colton Holliday had a good game with the minutes he had in and out of there," Alexander said.
Taylorville proved if it had space, the Tornadoes could fire from 3-point land.
The problem was, there was no space.
Taylorville knocked down four triples -- two from Jack Livingston, one from Ryan Ess and one from Justin Wright.
Three pointers were a concern for Lincoln coming into the game. One missed rotation in the zone defense and the Tornadoes would fire.
“That was a big threat for us," Bowers said. "We’ve been practicing all week on covering shooters and making sure that we can cover shooters and the lane because we know that they have some pretty good players who can drive the lane too. I feel like as a team we stepped up pretty well and covered shooters."