By Justin Einerson, Head Coach
In many ways, I’ve grown up as a coach alongside this group as they’ve grown as students and players. We started together at RAILS Academy in the fall of 2016. It was my first year as GEAR UP Coach and the new boys basketball coach at Lincoln and the 2020 class was the class I focused on with the GEAR UP program. At RAILS, I developed relationships with Nate, Ben, Kam, Andrew, Alex and Thaker and we started building towards a dream. Our varsity team finished 1-21 in 2016-17, but with these guys on the southside, it was clear that winning was coming.
We talked about how we were going to outwork everyone and how the 2020 class was going to be the ones to flip the scales. On Friday night, the 2020 class achieved their mission by winning the first CIML Metro title since 2008. Although everyone would tell you, as long as they let us play, we have a lot left to prove.
Nate Feller was a year-round example of how to turn a program into a winner. Regardless of the time of day or location, he was there getting better. Kameron Young transformed himself into a physical specimen who can shoot and finish to go along with a 4.0 GPA. Speaking of 4.0 GPAs, Ben Badger is a winner in every sport he plays and every task he attacks. Andrew Klein ran at state this year and jumped right into our starting shooting guard role. For the last few years, he’s been coach on our bench, this year he’s a coach on the floor. Alex Crimmins became our program’s sixth man and leader in charges-taken per minute after becoming a fan favorite late in games last year, he’s got a key role on a championship team.
Thaker Kueth came back to us as a senior after playing his freshmen and sophomore years here. Thaker is the ultimate teammate and I’m ecstatic to see him shine with this group as a senior. Kamron Francis came back to us this year after leaving after his sophomore year. It’s amazing to see Kamron get recruited as a college player. Very few people have the resilience that Kam Francis does and that’s why his success in the future is guaranteed. We were also lucky to get Ron Boston this year, who transferred from Iowa City this fall. In his first year of competitive basketball, Ron has been a feisty addition on both ends of the floor and has matched our culture at Lincoln perfectly.
Individually, the love I have for these young men is hard to put into words. We set a very high standard here on the floor, off the floor and in the community. Whether it’s been skill development, weights, taking charges, getting good grades or cooking hot dogs at Cash Saver, these guys were champions. Whether or not we beat North last Friday, they’d be champions to me. But man, I’m sure happy they have that title to carry with them going forward in life.
As for me, I’m just going to soak up every last minute I have with these guys.
The Des Moines Lincoln Basketball team is in its toughest stretch of the season when it comes to opponents. After sprinting to a 9-3 start, the Rails stumbled at Ottumwa and Johnston and on Tuesday night, the red-hot Valley Tigers gave the Rails their third loss in five games to drop Lincoln to 11-7 on the season. Valley is winners of six straight after the 68-52 win at the Roundhouse Tuesday night.
Valley sprinted to a 13-3 lead out of the gates and took a 35-18 lead into halftime. The Railsplitters were able to steady the margin in the third quarter before the offense finally came to life in the beginning of the fourth. Despite the fast finish by Lincoln, the slow start was too much to overcome.
“Our guys did a great job adjusting to how we were being guarded in the second half. We weren’t creating the looks we wanted off the actions that were a part of our initial game plan,” said head coach Justin Einerson. “The fact that we could get things rolling in our motion in the third and fourth quarter should give us a boost in confidence going into Friday night.”
Lincoln only connected on 5-of-20 shots from the paint against the long and lanky Tigers. With the close shots rimming out, the three-point looks were even more important. The Railsplitters shot above their average from deep, connecting on 11-of-26 and 42 percent. On the flip side, Valley shot 55 percent from the field and pounded the ball inside to take a commanding 38-10 advantage in paint points.
Senior Nate Feller finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and hit 4-of-5 of his threes. Ben Badger and Kamron Francis each added nine points.
The Railsplitters now focus forward to Friday night’s CIML Metro title game, a Valentines Day rematch with the Polar Bears, this time on the north side of town. On Saturday, the Polar Bears put together a shocking 43 point fourth quarter to erase a 52-39 Railsplitters lead.
With both Lincoln and North sitting at 7-2 in the CIML Metro, the championship will be decided Friday. Tip-off time for varsity is 7:45pm.
The Des Moines Lincoln Boys Basketball team was tasked with a critical back-to-back this weekend as the Railsplitters chase their first CIML Metro title since 2008. On Friday night, Lincoln hosted Roosevelt, who was fresh off a Thursday night road win at Ottumwa and winners of four of their last five overall. Lincoln’s defense was stout all night and despite a dismal 19-point second half performance, Lincoln finished the sweep of the Roughriders with a 49-48 win. The next night, the Railsplitters led 50-39 going into the fourth quarter before an unbelievable 43 point quarter by the Polar Bears set up a conference deciding championship game for Valentines Day on the north side.
On Friday night, the Rails took a 30-18 advantage into the locker rooms before Roosevelt scraped back on the shoulders of senior Rome Hellems, who finished with 14 points. Down one late in the game, Ben Badger hit his second game-winning shot of the season on his way to 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting. The Rails got eight points each by seniors Nate Feller and Kamron Young in the win.
On Saturday night, the Railsplitters could have cut down the nets as CIML Metro champions with a win over the Polar Bears and after three quarters, it looked like Lincoln was about to claim the conference title. However, a historic surge by junior North guard Malik Allen buried the Rails as he scored 42 points on 7-of-8 from the three point line. One of those threes was from an estimated 32 feet in the fourth. Overall, North tallied 43 points in the final frame and kept the race for the Metro title alive as both teams now sit 7-2 on the season with the Valentines Night match-up looming.
Nate Feller led the Rails Saturday with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Kamron Francis added 13 points and a hobbled Ben Badger added 13 and six assists.
“When we played like ourselves this weekend, we were very good,” said head coach Justin Einerson. “It’s when we force the opponent to dictate the pace and the action where we struggle. We learned a lot from Saturday night. I know we will be ready for the big week ahead.”
Big week indeed. The Railsplitters are looking at a 2, 3 or 4 seed in the substate that features Waukee, Valley and North. Wins on Tuesday against Valley and Friday at North could push the Rails as high as the two seed and a first-round bye. A split or two losses could drop them to the number four, still good enough for a home game in the first round.
With both the Des Moines Lincoln Railsplitters and Ottumwa Bulldogs riding winning streaks, something had to give Friday in Ottumwa. After a 3-for-30 first half for Lincoln, Ottumwa was able to cruise to their fifth straight win, 65-45. The Bulldogs went on to beat North Saturday for their sixth straight, evening the Rails and Polar Bears at the top of the CIML Metro standings.
Lincoln’s first half struggles included a handful of missed layups, a flurry of missed open threes and was topped off with a few missed free throws, just for good measure. The Rails responded with a 37-point second half but the damage was done as Ottumwa stayed locked in all night in a 20-point win.
Ben Badger was the only Lincoln player in double digits, scoring 13. The Rails finished the game at 26.3 percent shooting.
“Ottumwa is one of the toughest places we go to every year and we still haven’t figured out how to give them our best shot down there,” said head coach Justin Einerson. “They are extremely well-coached and have some high-level talent. We were as cold as I’ve seen in the first half but I’m a firm believer that most shooting stats even out in the long run.”
Thankfully, the Railsplitters didn’t have to dwell on the loss very long as Lincoln tipped with Atlantic at 3:30 Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena. After struggling to score in the first quarter, the Rails were able to turn defense into offense for the final three periods in a 72-43 win over the Trojans.
Lincoln shot 45.9 percent from the field including a 10-of-26 mark from three. The Rails forced 20 Trojan turnovers and scored 28 points off those turnovers.
The 10-4 Railsplitters head to Johnston Tuesday night for a clash with the 8-7 Dragons. After a busy week, here are the updated CIML Metro Standings:
Lincoln 6-1, 10-4 Overall
North 6-1, 8-6 Overall
Ottumwa 3-4, 9-7 Overall
Hoover 4-5, 6-10 Overall
Roosevelt 2-5, 5-8 Overall
East 0-7, 0-15
The Des Moines Lincoln Basketball team was out-rebounded, out-shot and out-schemed in the first three quarters Tuesday night but a fourth quarter explosion of offense, suffocating defense and a few clutch shots gave the Railsplitters their fifth straight win in a 55-53 triumph over Urbandale.
After three quarters of dominance by the Jayhawks (5-9), who led by 15 in the closing stages of the third, Lincoln cut the advantage to six with 4:00 left in the game on a corner three by senior Ron Boston.
Urbandale immediately answered against the Railsplitters press to move the lead to eight but an and-one layup by sophomore Aidan Cord made the game 51-45 with 3:41 remaining. A couple free throws put the advantage back at eight with 2:36 left before senior Kamron Francis cut it back to six on a middle drive.
Urbandale missed two free throws before Francis cut the lead to three on another and-one finish with 1:54 left. Urbandale turned it over again with 1:40 left and Kamron Francis hit Aidan Cord open in the corner and the sophomore drilled a three to tie the game at 53.
With the Roundhouse crowd in a frenzy, senior Ben Badger took a charge with 1:09 left to give the Rails what appeared to be the final possession of the game.
That’s when Ben Badger went into Mamba mode, driving down the lane and hitting a contested floater with 2.5 left to give Lincoln its first lead of the game. Urbandale’s last-second attempt went long and the Rails escaped with their fifth straight win.
“Just how we drew it up,” said Lincoln head coach Justin Einerson jokingly. “We had our worst three quarters of the year on both ends in this one but we never stopped playing with heart, passion and belief. Our student section gave us a real lift and our guys responded with clutch shots and clutch stops in clutch moments. I’ve coached some very good players but nobody is a warrior like Ben Badger is.”
Badger finished with 22 points while Kameron Young added 10. The 9-3 Railsplitters head to Ottumwa Friday night to resume CIML Metro play against a Bulldog team that has won four straight games as well.
It was a marathon week for the Lincoln Boys Basketball team that included three games in four days with two of them being late nights on the road. After a nail-biting win at Marshalltown and emotional victory at Roosevelt, the Railsplitters finished off the week in perfect fashion in a 63-47 win over a hungry young Hoover team.
The Huskies had three freshmen in the starting lineup and all three ended up leading Hoover with double figures. Chase Henderson had 17, Ali Hassen had 12 and Elijah Vos finished with 10. Henderson hit a 35 foot runner at the buzzer to end the first quarter in a 9-9 tie.
Lincoln got the ship moving the right direction in the second quarter as the Rails took a 26-18 lead into the locker room. From that point on, the Railsplitters built their advantage on their way to a 6-0 lead in the metro.
Ben Badger finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Nate Feller finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Kamron Francis finished with nine points.
The Railsplitters and Huskies both shot 45 percent from the field and were tight in three-point numbers as well with Lincoln making 9-of-23 and Hoover making 10-of-27. The Rails were able to get a 10-of-11 performance from the free throw line while Hoover only had one attempt. Lincoln also had 26 points in the paint compared to Hoover’s 12 and the Rails compiled 18 assists and just seven turnovers.
“We only committed four fouls the entire game, which ultimately was the difference in the game,” said Head Coach Justin Einerson. “We put a lot of pressure on the rim in our motion offense, even though they sent five five back in transition on every shot. (Coach) Rob Newton’s defensive plan was stout all week and our guys did a great job guarding the ball tonight.”
The Railsplitters are on a four-game winning streak, are 8-3 on the season and 6-0 in the CIML Metro. Lincoln is back in action Tuesday night at the Roundhouse as Urbandale (5-7) comes to town.
The Des Moines Lincoln Basketball team has won its third straight game after a 65-50 win at Des Moines Roosevelt High School Thursday night. The win put the Railsplitters back into a tie with Des Moines North at 5-0 in the CIML Metro.
With the stands packed with boisterous students on both sides, the Rails were able to put together a 38-24 lead into the locker rooms after the first half. The Roughriders cut the lead to single-digits a few times in the second half but the Rails stayed in control throughout, answering Roosevelt’s swings step-for-step.
Lincoln proved to be a tough guard as the two-headed monster of seniors Nate Feller and Ben Badger combined for 41 points. Feller finished with a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Badger finished with 20 points and three assists. Senior Kamron Francis had another eight-point night and sophomore Aidan Cord provided a spark with eight points off the bench.
“That was the best atmosphere that we’ve played in all year and our guys showed a lot of resilience when things didn’t go our way,” said head coach Justin Einerson. “It was awesome to have such an active student section there tonight. Can’t wait to get back to the Roundhouse Friday night with Hoover.”
The Railsplitters go straight back to work in chasing a CIML Metro title, taking on Hoover tonight at the Roundhouse. Tip is scheduled for 7:45pm.
CIML Metro Standings
Lincoln (5-0), 7-3
North (5-0), 6-5
Hoover (3-2), 5-8
Ottumwa (1-4), 5-7
Roosevelt (1-4), 2-8
East (0-5), 0-11
The Des Moines Lincoln Boys Basketball team was expecting a strong challenge Tuesday night, taking on a well-coached Marshalltown team on the road. But a 29-point effort by Bobcat sophomore Armonniey Thomas was almost enough to upend the Railsplitters in a game that ended in a 50-48 win for Lincoln.
Before Lincoln recorded a string of clutch defensive stops down the stretch to close off the road win in the fourth quarter, Lincoln’s runs were answered punch-by-punch by Thomas and Marshalltown freshman Drake Kapayou, who finished with 12 points on a 4-for-8 three-point effort.
Thomas and Kapayou combined for 32 of Marshalltown’s 38 shots from the field as well as 41 of 48 points.
In a game with a very low number of possessions in comparison to Lincoln’s previous eight games, the Railsplitters got 18 points and three assists by senior Ben Badger and 13 points and seven rebounds by senior Nate Feller. The balanced scoring attack included nine points from Andrew Klein and five from both Kamron Francis and Kameron Young.
“Marshalltown came to play tonight and we had to earn this one,” said fourth-year head coach Justin Einerson. “They have two young, dynamic scorers but we did a good job limiting them to one shot all night long. Offensively, we were a lot better in the half-court than the scoreboard shows and it’s nice to see us create looks for each other regardless of what defense we are seeing.”
While the box score shows even numbers in nearly every category, two of them stuck out when looking at the final result. First, the Rails outrebounded the Bobcats 24-15 and didn’t allow a single Marshalltown offensive rebound. Secondly, the Railsplitters were able to get to the free throw line, connecting on 13-of-18 from the charity stripe. Marshalltown was just 5-of-6 from the line.
Lincoln faces a quick turnaround with the rescheduled CIML Metro game at Roosevelt planned for Thursday night. Freshmen and JV play at 4:45, varsity plays at 7:45.
CIML Metro Standings:
North 5-0, 6-5 Overall
Lincoln 4-0, 6-3 Overall
Hoover 3-2, 5-8 Overall
Roosevelt 1-3, 2-7 Overall
Ottumwa 1-4, 5-7 Overall
East 0-4, 0-10 Overall
The Des Moines Lincoln Boys Basketball team had an unplanned week off from competition as an impending snow storm canceled the Metro clash with Roosevelt that was scheduled on the west side Friday, January 10. The Rails were itching to get back to game action and in a game where all 12 players received substantial playing time, Lincoln ran away with a 97-60 win over Des Moines East.
Despite the 97 points scored, Lincoln actually shot below it’s average for the season from both the three-point line and free throw line. The Rails connected on just 4-of-25 (16 percent) from deep and 21-of-33 (64 percent) from the charity stripe, well below team averages of 35 percent and 72 percent coming in.
Lincoln forced 32 East turnovers and outscored the Scarlets 62-12 in the paint. The Rails out-rebounded East by 17 as well.
Senior Ben Badger finished with 32 points on 13-of-21 from the field. He also finished with eight rebounds in limited minutes. Senior Nate Feller scored 14 points on 4-of-8 from the field. Senior Kamron Francis had 10 points as well. All 12 Railsplitters scored for the second time this year.
The stage is now set for a showdown between Des Moines North and Des Moines Lincoln for first-place in the CIML Metro. The Polar Bears are coming off two wins this week at home against Hoover and Roosevelt. Tip time Friday, January 17 is scheduled for 7:45pm. Lincoln students will not be charged admission.
CIML Metro Standings:
North 5-0, 6-4 Overall
Lincoln 4-0, 5-3 Overall
Hoover 3-2, 5-7 Overall
Roosevelt 1-3, 2-7 Overall
Ottumwa 0-4, 3-7 Overall
East 0-4, 0-9 Overall
The Des Moines Lincoln Basketball team started red-hot on Tuesday night at the Roundhouse, taking a 12-6 lead in the opening minutes. However, the Waukee Warriors, widely regarded as the top 4A team in the state, used the next six minutes to put together a 23-2 run that left the Railsplitters in a 29-14 hole. Waukee (7-0) went on to drop Lincoln (4-3) 61-46 in the end.
One positive for Coach Einerson’s southsiders was that, aside from the 23-2 Warrior run in the first half, Lincoln had a 44-39 advantage for the remaining 26 minutes of the game. Against a team full of high-level college recruits, it says a lot about Lincoln’s potential against the best in the state.
“When we ran our stuff, we were really good on both ends. When we pressed and tried to make plays outside of our normal offense, we weren’t very good,” said fourth-year head coach Justin Einerson. “If you play the right way, the game usually rewards you and I thought we had some really great moments and some fantastic learning material for the future.”
While the Rails struggled from the field by shooting 31 percent on 18-of-58, the real deciding factor was in the rebounding stats where Waukee held a 47-26 advantage. Lincoln was able to turn the Warriors over 19 times, about 12 turnovers above their average for the season. Lincoln also outscored Waukee in the paint, 20-18. Second-chance points played a huge role for the Warriors as well as Waukee had 15 points off of their offensive rebounds.
Waukee junior Tucker DeVries finished with 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting. Lincoln senior Ben Badger led the Rails with 17 points on 7-for-21 from the field.
Lincoln moves back into Metro play over the next three games and will head to Roosevelt Friday for a tough test with the Roughriders. Here’s the schedule for Friday and the following week.
Friday, Jan 10: Lincoln (3-0) @ Roosevelt (1-2), 7:45pm
Tuesday, Jan 14: Lincoln (3-0) @ East (0-3), 7:45pm
Friday, Jan 17: North (3-0) @ Lincoln (3-0), 7:45pm