DECATUR — Lincoln's shots just seemed to rim out one after another.
Junior guard Isaiah Bowers put an end to the malaise down the stretch.
Bowers scored nine of his 15 points in the fourth quarter to dispatch MacArthur 53-42 on Friday night.
Lincoln (15-7 overall, 9-3 Central State Eight) only led 35-33 at the start of the fourth quarter.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Bowers then barreled to the hoop and ignited a pivotal 8-0 run for a 43-33 advantage with 3:10 left in the fourth quarter.
“I thought I helped my team bring some energy in the fourth quarter, making a couple of layups toward the end,” Bowers said. “I felt like after that our team picked it up and started playing like how I know we can play.”
He first charged into a crowd and converted a circus shot with the foul — but missed the free throw — for a 38-33 lead. He then banked home a challenging left-handed layup with another foul — this time making the extra free throw — to extend the margin 41-33.
“I just let it come to me,” Bowers said. “My team backs me up and they encourage me every day in practice. It just kind of feels natural out there. When the shots aren't going in, they still trust me and that definitely helps.”
Lincoln shot just 7 of 19 (36.8 percent) in the first half and then heated up with 13 of 24 (54.2 percent) shooting in the second.
“We missed a lot of easy shots and we were looking around for (MacArthur forward Adrian) Williams,” Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said. “His presence makes you adjust your shot and not focus on what you're doing. We missed a lot of easy layups, but were able to make them down the stretch and get to the free throw line.”
MacArthur's chances suddenly vanished after battling with the Railers most of the way, but coach Ron Ingram was far from discouraged.
The Generals missed three of their top guards: point guard Randy Thaxton and the electric Brummetts, Amir and Armon.
They were suspended for a school-related team violation, Ingram said.
Ingram said they will return for today's road game against Peoria Richwoods in the Peoria Shootout.
“I think our boys got tired in the end right there,” Ingram said. “I saw in the timeout they were bent over. I knew we were going to play a limited bench tonight, but in the first half all of the young guys came in and helped us out a little bit.”
MacArthur (12-8, 8-4) specifically needed forward Adrian Williams to carry the weight in their absence.
He did just that in the first half and buoyed the Generals with 11 points going into the locker room with a 19-14 deficit.
But he got less touches in the second half and ultimately finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Junior guard Keenan Ingram also contributed 15 points.
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“The game plan was to get the ball to the big fella (Williams) and let him work down there," Ingram said. "They saw it work sometimes, but they didn't follow it all the way through.”
Lincoln senior guard Bryson Kirby showed he has deep range.
He splashed a couple of long 3s in the second quarter to lift Lincoln to a 17-12 lead.
“When you hit 3s, it creates lanes and that's what happened and we were able to attack the basket,” Kirby said.
While Lincoln suffered long dry spells, the Railers handled the ball effectively.
Lincoln only lost five turnovers. MacArthur had 17.
“It's a good defense,” Kirby said of MacArthur. “They pressure you and try to turn you over. I think we did a good job.”
End of a short era
It may have been the end of the Lincoln-MacArthur rivalry.
The Railers made their final visit to MacArthur — at least while both are part of the CS8.
Lincoln will leave the CS8 and join the Apollo Conference next school year.
It was very short-lived, but it was fun while it lasted.
Lincoln fans may remember that MacArthur nearly snubbed the Railers state runner-up run in 2014. The Generals fell just short 46-44 in overtime at Roy S. Anderson Gym, and Lincoln cruised to the state championship game after that.
“We'd like to play them non-conference,” Alexander said of MacArthur. “It's a great rivalry and they're very good and well-coached. They're hard to beat and that's what you got to have.”
“It was definitely different knowing that three of their starters weren't going to play tonight. The players out there were great. It was definitely challenging playing against them.” Bowers, on MacArthur