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.