COLLINSVILLE — Lincoln did everything it planned to do on defense.
The Railers held Springfield Southeast to 45 percent shooting and forced 12 Spartan turnovers, but couldn’t get going on the offensive end in a 38-30 loss in the semifinal game of the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic in a battle of former Central State 8 rivals.
Lincoln shot 35.5 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc and didn’t make a field goal for a near 10-and-a-half minute stretch from the second to the third quarter.
The Railers (10-3) got a layup from Isaiah Bowers with 7:13 left in the second quarter to cut the Southeast lead to 10-9.
Lincoln shot 1-of-2 from the field in the second, scoring six points.
It didn’t make another field goal until Bowers weaved through traffic for a spinning layup with 4:43 to go in the third quarter.
But the drought didn’t entirely cost Lincoln. The defense held the prolific Spartan offense, led by standout Anthony Fairlee, who had a team-high 12 points, in check, trailing 19-15 after Bowers’ bucket in the third quarter.
It wasn’t about what the Spartans (9-2) did, but what the Railers couldn’t do.
“Nothing,” Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said of Southeast's defensive changes during the Railers’ offensive drought. “We just didn’t attack. We missed layups early and we quit attacking the basket. When we do that, that’s going to happen.”
Titus Cannon led Lincoln with 9 points and Bowers scored seven before fouling out with 2:45 left.
But in the fourth quarter, the Railers had a chance to cut the Southeast lead to three when Isaac Dewberry drove to the lane but was called for a foul when Michael Tyler drew a charge, forcing the turnover.
Tyler hit a layup on the other end to give Southeast a 27-20 lead.
But again, Lincoln had a response after a Cannon 3-pointer to make it 27-23.
But Lincoln never got closer than four points, and a 5-0 stretch in favor of Southeast in the fourth all but sealed Lincoln’s fate.
“They attacked and they are skilled,” Alexander said. “You have to be able to play them. Hopefully we can play them again (in the postseason).
“You don’t make layups and you quit going to the basket, when they come out and guard you on the perimeter like that — and this year, we’ve got more of a driving team than we’ve had in the past.”
Lincoln 47, Quincy 41
Every eye in Vergil Fletcher Gymnasium was on Isaiah Bowers.
Bowers, a Lincoln senior, had a chance to all-but-seal Friday's Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic quarterfinal game against Quincy in overtime and finally put a halt to a Quincy run that spanned the entire fourth quarter.
With the Railers leading by four with nine seconds left in the extra frame, Bowers stepped up and drained both of his free throws to give Lincoln the win and push them into the semifinals in the Railers' first game on Friday.
“Those are so scary, especially because everybody is just staring at you and you can tell," Bowers said. "It’s just like, this isn’t a regular free throw. But in the back of your mind you’ve got to say, ‘I shoot these everyday,’ and just step up with confidence and try to knock them down.”
Bowers led Lincoln with 16 points, draining turn-around jumpers, slashing through the lane and hitting those coveted free throws.
It looked like the Railers had the game well in hand, with a 29-15 lead after the third quarter, during which Lincoln held Quincy to two points and no made field goals.
Then the Blue Devils caught fire, knocking down five 3-pointers in the quarter on a 23-9 run that tied the game after two free throws from Jaeden Smith with 5.5 seconds left.
“They were able to do what shooters do — put the misses behind them and keep shooting,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “Luckily for us, some of them started dropping.”
Lincoln got a final shot, but Drew Bacon’s floater hit front iron on the other end to force overtime.
Lincoln darted into OT, forcing turnovers on two of Quincy’s first three possessions to take a five-point lead.
“We definitely felt that in the fourth quarter that we were the one on the ground getting kicked,” Bowers said. “They came out and hit a bunch of 3s on us and they came out and played really, really good with high intensity in the second half.
“They came back on us, it went into overtime, we got to catch our wind for a second, regroup as a team and we knew that we’re a better team than what we were playing. We said, ‘Let’s go win the game,’ and that’s what we went out there and did.”
Lincoln’s offense was spearheaded by its suddenly offensive-minded point guard Titus Cannon.
After scoring 22 points in Wednesday’s win against Hazelwood East, Cannon scored 13 points on 3 of 5 shooting while hitting 6 of 7 from the free-throw line.
His defense down the stretch was key for the Railers in slowing Quincy and helping weather the storm.
“We got through their onslaught of threes and after that we calmed down and got back to how we need to play,” Cannon said.