Lincoln boys basketball coach Neil Alexander believes Railers point guard Max Cook is often overlooked.
But no one is overlooking the Railers in general.
Lincoln is undefeated behind an offense that averages seven 3-pointers per game and looks capable of challenging Springfield Lanphier and Chatham Glenwood for supremacy in the Central State Eight Conference. The Railers also drew the No. 1 seed for the 30th annual Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic.
East St. Louis, Belleville Althoff and Belleville East grabbed the other top-four seeds.
Should Quincy High School win its opening game against Chicago Marshall at 8 p.m. Dec. 26, the Blue Devils (3-3) would likely meet the second-seeded Flyers. Quincy and East St. Louis have met in tournament play in two of the last three years, including last year's title game.
The Flyers won 60-52, their second championship game victory over the Blue Devils. East St. Louis won 67-55 in 1999, one of four titles the Flyers have won since 1998. Quincy last won the championship in 1997, although the Blue Devils have appeared in the title game four times since.
Lincoln last won the championship in 2009, although the last time the Railers were the No. 1 seed was 2010 and they were upset by Quincy in the second round. The Blue Devils won 62-54 in double overtime.
Those Railers didn't have a player like the 6-foot-2 Cook at the point.
"He's not going to have a large number offensively," Alexander told the Springfield State Journal-Register. "He's not a great athlete, but he's a very, very good basketball player and understands how to play.
"I think that type of player gets overlooked because he doesn't jump and dunk the ball and he doesn't shoot the ball a ton of times. He just runs his basketball team. What he does for us, he makes us what we are."
River city rollover: For about three minutes last Friday night, Peoria Central was able to keep pace with Peoria Manual.
The Rams didn't let that last any longer.
Manual closed the first quarter on a 17-5 run and hammered its Mid-State Six Conference rival 71-45. It is the Rams' largest margin of victory in the series since a 28-point victory during the 2003-04 season.
"That first few minutes was typical Manual-Central emotion," Manual coach Derrick Booth told the Peoria Journal Star. "After that, we were able to run some things, and we got some easy buckets. We fed off that and finished the first quarter strong."
Central (0-6) committed 29 turnovers.
"We handled their pressure for the first few minutes of the game but we couldn't sustain it," Central coach Dan Ruffin told the Journal Star. "We started getting ragged, and once you get ragged, you're playing right into Manual's hands."
Handling the hype: Chicago Stagg's 8-0 start finally got the Chargers noticed by Chicagoland media outlets. They cracked the Chicago Sun-Times' Super 25 this week.
"The kids were walking around high-fiving each other and social media was going crazy," Stagg coach John Daniels told the Sun-Times. "Then we fell on our faces."
Stagg lost Monday night to Addison Trail and then fell Tuesday night 49-44 to Bolingbrook.
However, the loss to Bolingbrook came after point guard Kevin White was sidelined with an injury and leading scorer Max Strus was moved to a ball-handling role. Strus, who averages 22 points per game, is being recruited by Quincy University.
"It's great for the school to get the recognition," Strus told the Sun-Times. "We can't let the rankings get to us. It stinks losing. But we'll get better. We'll be fine."
Someone had to lose: Carbondale and Belleville Althoff went into last Saturday's South Seven Conference opener undefeated.
Only the Terriers remain unbeaten. Behind 24 points from Devontavious Payne, Carbondale won 68-56 to improve to 4-0.
"There are no easy nights in the South Seven, and you have to defend your home court in order to have a chance to win the conference," Carbondale coach Jim Miller told the Southern Illinoisan. "This is a great way to start with the effort we gave tonight against a real good team. If that's any indication of how our kids will respond with two weeks off ,then we've got some good games ahead of us."