LINCOLN — It was the type of game famous on Friday nights at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium. But instead of the Neil Alexander-coached Lincoln boys basketball team winning a game in front of a raucous home crowd, Kloe Froebe led the Railsplitters’ girls team to a thrilling 65-54 over Mattoon.
The two teams are a combined 34-4, with all four losses coming to each other. Mattoon beat Lincoln 54-45 in pool play of the Pana Thanksgiving Tournament on Nov. 19. In the championship game at Pana eight days later, Lincoln got its first revenge with a 56-48 win.
On Dec. 3 in the first Apollo Conference meeting, the Green Wave (18-2) crushed the Railers, 61-31 in Mattoon. Lincoln (16-2) and Mattoon will now have to wait until the Class 3A Highland Supersectional before a possible fifth meeting in what would be an epic conclusion to a battle between state-ranked opponents.
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But on Friday, Froebe said the pre-game lights-out presentation, the Lincoln pep band and a supportive student section helped the Railers, ranked No. 4 in this week’s Class 3A poll.
“Yeah, so a lot of it I think was nerves,” Lincoln’s sophomore guard said of the 30-point loss last month in Mattoon.
“They had a huge student section, as we showed up tonight. And so I think it was just playing for the first time in front of all those people. A lot of us are freshmen, sophomores. So it's a big change. And I think it really motivated us to work harder and work on our press and really come back and get the win tonight.”
Froebe began the game with a 15-point first quarter as Lincoln jumped out to an 11-4 run. The Railers played from in front for the duration of the game, led by Froebe’s 35-point night. She was a perfect 8-for-8 at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter after Mattoon got within 57-51 with 1 minute, 20 seconds left.
“Honestly, every time I go to the line in practices, I always stay after and shoot free throws and just every time I'm thinking, 'All right, the game's on the line,' just practicing for this sort of situation,” said Froebe, who also pulled down 11 rebounds, helped force many of Mattoon’s 17 turnovers and found open teammates when she was being hounded by the Green Wave’s defense.
“Our girls played hard,” Mattoon coach Amanda Aydt said. “We fought until the end.”
It was Lincoln's first game since beating Dunlap to win the Peoria Manual Holiday Tournament on Dec. 29, because of COVID-19 protocols.
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The Railers also got 10 points from sophomore Jenna Bowman and 10 from Reese McCuan, one of just three seniors on the roster. Sophomores Becca Heitzig and Taryn Stoltzenburg combined for 10 points.
“They're young kids, but they have the green light,” 10th-year Lincoln coach Taylor Rohrer said. “And they know that I believe that every single kid on my team can step up and hit a shot.
“And I think that teams are starting to see that we have a full team, and that's exciting.”
Froebe, the younger sister of 2018 Lincoln graduate Kaelyn Froebe, has been a focal point for many defenses since her days winning middle school championships during her middle school days at West Lincoln-Broadwell. Rohrer said as Froebe draws double-teams or a box-and-one on defense, it’s important that players with open shots knock them down.
“The more you score, the more they're going to have to come off Kloe, then Kloe's open, then Kloe hits a few now they're going to have to come back on Kloe,” Rohrer said. “And now the rest of my team is open.
"You know, it's exciting for my kids to start building that confidence. And to see it out here.”
Froebe helped West Lincoln-Broadwell win three Class 7-1A state titles from fifth grade through seventh (2016-2018) and three Class 8-1A championships between 2017-2019.
Mattoon senior Mallory Ramage has committed to play at Loyola Chicago. She was limited to just two points in the first half and picked up her fourth foul in the second quarter.
She came out on a mission in the third with 11 of her team’s 13 points in the period. Her layup with 3:33 left in the third helped get eighth-ranked Mattoon within 40-35. She finished with 22 points.
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“I'm proud of the way our girls played,” Aydt said. “I mean, they played hard the entire game. It was just a good basketball game.”
Froebe said she knew Ramage wouldn’t stay quiet for long.
“I think we knew coming in that sooner or later, she would turn it on or her shots would start knocking down,” Froebe said of Ramage. “So we kind of expected that. And it's just coming back from that knowing that she'll get her points and knowing that we just had the end of the day, we just got to make sure we get more.”
But Froebe was happy to have another battle against a player of Ramage’s caliber.
“It's awesome; she's a really great player,” Froebe said. “And it's just it's nice to see like what hopefully my future will be like. It really, really helps me develop for the future and see what hopefully the future will be like, for me.”
Contact Ryan Mahan: 857-246-9756, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter.com/RyanMahanSJR.
This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Lincoln girls basketball wins state-ranked battle with Mattoon