Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.
Lincoln used a methodical offense and took advantage of Charleston’s lack of aggressiveness in the first half to build a 15-point halftime lead in defeating the Trojans 44-27 in a makeup game Wednesday evening at Baker Gym.
“That’s what Lincoln does,” Charleston coach Cody Drone said. “Lincoln was going to take away whatever mistake you have and they’re going to get after it. They’re just really good at executing. They know what they’re trying to get out of their offense and they run it.”
Lincoln settled into their 2-1-2 zone defense, forcing Charleston to push the ball around the perimeter. While the Trojans made five 3-pointers, it wasn’t enough.
“We knew we had to hit outside shots today,” Drone said. “We had to expand our zone because they packed it in on us. We hit a couple of shots but not enough to warrant a victory. We have to continue to look for those looks.”
“It is (frustrating),” he said. “We talked before the game about speeding them up and making them uncomfortable. It’s just super difficult. We struggled to hit shots again.”
Charleston’s Jaksen Braun who scored a game-high 13 points and hit three of CHS’s 3-pointers, didn’t blame Lincoln’s defense for the loss.
““I didn’t think it was that big of an issue,” Braun said. “Towards the end of the second half, we focused on the offensive side and going inside. Burg (Jackson Burgess) really opened it up in the middle, kicking it out if I wasn’t open and hitting the guy in the corner. It would have made the difference, if we had not been down the whole game.”
Lincoln raced out to a seven-point lead before the Trojans’ first basket, a 3 by Braun almost five minutes into the first quarter. That was Charleston’s only score in the first quarter as Lincoln took a 12-3 advantage. It didn’t get better for the Trojans. The Railsplitters outscored them 10-4 in the second quarter for a 15-point lead.
Charleston roared out of the break by dropping 17 points on Lincoln in the third based playing at a faster tempo behind Braun’s and Grady Smitley’s five points each, before poor shooting yielded only three points in the fourth quarter.
“We came out in the second half and the pressure was there, the intensity was there,” he said. “The effort was there. Defensively, the first half we didn’t pride ourselves on our side of the floor. That was upsetting because that’s something we work on every single day. That needs to get better. We need to play four quarters. We haven’t played four quarters of basketball in a while. We have to do that.”
Braun said the difference in the game was how the team played each half.
“I don’t think we played that bad either,” Braun said. “That first half, we just took it really easy on defense. That was the difference in the game. We were down and fighting a losing battle the whole game. If we would have came out ready in that first half, it might have been a different outcome.”
Drone said if they play like they had in the second quarter he’s confident they can compete against Lincoln in re-match.
“But that second half, if we play like we did in that second half, I put us up against anybody,” he said. “I’m super proud of that second half that we played.”
Charleston meets Mattoon on Friday for the second time this year and the first time in an Apollo Conference matchup.
“I’ve never been to Mattoon’s gym with people there,” Drone said. “Mattoon gets after it and they (the fans) are a rowdy bunch. Us dealing with that is going to be interesting because we haven’t had to deal with that this year. They’re just a solid team. They’re going to play that 2-3 zone. We were able to handle in the third and fourth quarter the last time we played them. Hopefully, we get some good practice reps tomorrow and handle it Friday.”
CHS drops to 10-6 overall and 4-1 in the Apollo while Lincoln improves to 13-1, 3-0.
LINCOLN – Nelson 4 0-0 12, Pollice 4 4-4 12, Bivin 2 0-0 4, Hayes 2 0-0 4, Cook 5 2-2 12. Totals: 17 6-6 44. 3-pointers: Nelson 4.
CHARLESTON – Smitley 1 3-4 6, Applegate 1 0-0 3, Burgess 1 0-2 2, Braun 4 2-3 13, Oakley 1 1-2 3. Totals: 8 6-11 27. 3-pointers: Smitley 1, Applegate 1, Braun 3.