LINCOLN — Some lessons are easy to teach, while the others have to be taught the hard way.
The Danville Vikings had to learn the hard way on Saturday night in the championship game of the Lincoln/Eaton Thanksgiving Tournament.
Lincoln used its tenacious 1-2-2 zone to stymie Danville to 22.6 percent shooting from the field and the Vikings were an abysmal 2-of-24 from 3-point range as the host Railsplitters claimed the title with a 43-31 triumph.
“It’s a great experience to play Lincoln in Lincoln,’’ Danville first-year coach Durrell Robinson said. “That is a 27-win team with four returning starters. I knew what we were getting ourselves into tonight.’’
But knowing it and experiencing it are two different things.
The Vikings looked like they were sinking in quick sand during the first half, missing shots on the offensive end while the Railsplitters were knocking down 7-of-18 from 3-point range on the way to a 23-9 lead at halftime.
“I take the blame for this,’’ said Danville junior forward Tevin Smith. “I didn’t do what I was supposed to do as a leader.
“It wasn’t just missed shots, we also made mistakes on defense.’’
Actually, Lincoln (4-0) didn’t shoot the ball great on Saturday night. The Railsplitters shot just 33.3 percent (15-of-45) but that was considering better than the Vikings.
“I felt that we competed, especially on the defensive end,’’ said Robinson. “We would make a couple of defensive stops, get a couple of good looks but we didn’t capitalize.
“Against a team like Lincoln, you have to capitalize on every opportunity that you get.’’
Lincoln (4-0) took control of the contest in the first three minutes with 3-pointers from Kaden Froebe, Will Ewald and Kameron Whiteman that gave the Railsplitters a 9-3 lead and they never looked back.
After a Nathanael Hoskins 3-pointer with 5:59 left in the first quarter, Danville (3-1) missed its next 12 shots as Lincoln went on a 14-0 run.
“Some of the shots were open and some were a little contested — we can take that,’’ Smith said. “The shots just didn’t fall and we didn’t play well.’’
Robinson pointed out that the Lincoln defense focused on Danville’s leading scorers, Smith and Hoskins, while it let other guys have open looks.
“There was a reason that guys got open all of the time,’’ he said. “We need to get to a point where we identify ourselves and know who should be taking those shots.’’
He also wanted to see his team move the ball better against the zone.
“Ball reversal is big against these guys,’’ Robinson said. “Give Lincoln and coach (Neil) Alexander all of the credit, they did a great job of keeping the ball on one side of the floor.’’
All week, Robinson talked about how the Lincoln Tournament was a good learning experience for his team. He felt the same way about Saturday’s loss.
“We learned against a high-quality opponent in their gym,’’ he said.
Smith added, “this is the first week of the season. We are going to get better over the next three months.’’
He added it’s also a reminder that there are teams just as good as Danville out there.
“We feel that we are one of the top teams and we just need to get better and get ourselves there,’’ he said.
Danville will play its first home game on Tuesday night when the Vikings host the Chicago Orr Spartans. It will be the home debut for Robinson, a Danville graduate.
Hoskins and Smith were the only Vikings in double figures on Saturday. Hoskins had 13 points, while Smith had 11 to go along with 11 rebounds. Both players were selected for the all-tournament team.