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Basketball: Alpharetta deals Lambert boys first region loss
Smith leads Lady Raiders past Lambert girls
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Lambert freshman forward Olivia Lawson puts up a shot against Alpharetta on Friday at Lambert. - photo by Jared Putnam

Bjorn Walker put an end to the Lambert boys’ perfect region record.

Walker, Alpharetta’s 6-foot-5 forward, poured in a game-high 32 points, as the Raiders raced out to a 21-point lead and handed the Longhorns their first Region 6-AAAAAA loss, 75-66, on Friday at Lambert. The loss snapped Lambert’s six-game winning streak, which culminated Dec. 29 as the Longhorns won the Lanier Holiday Tournament for the second year in a row.

Earlier Friday night, Lambert’s girls suffered a 71-45 defeat.

When Lambert’s boys (8-5, 3-1 Region 6-AAAAAA) fouled to deny Walker easy baskets in the paint, he made them pay at the free throw line by hitting 12 of 13 attempts.

"We were playing soft, I felt like, on the defensive end pretty much the whole game until the fourth quarter," Lambert head coach Scott Bracco said. "We let them beat us around in the paint a little bit and they out-rebounded us, and that hurt us in the second quarter.

"[Walker] did a good job of rebounding the ball, [getting] tip-ins. That’s where we’ve got to do a better job, we’ve got to keep those guys off the boards."

The game got away from the Longhorns in the second quarter, when the Raiders (5-4, 3-1) repeatedly forced turnovers and turned them into transition baskets. Walker scored 11 points in the period and the Raiders won the scoring battle 23-8, pushing their lead to 44-23 at halftime.

Lambert’s ballhandling difficulties were due in part to the absence of starting point guard Matt Melms, who missed the game with the flu.

"Matt has been playing great for us," Bracco said. "We just needed somebody else to step up and I thought we would have that guy step up."

The Longhorns hit their stride in the fourth quarter, narrowing the deficit to single digits with less than two minutes remaining. Alpharetta led 71-55 before Jake Morris and Brennan Gagen — with the help of an assist from Logan Bush — connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to narrow the gap to 71-61 with 1:56 remaining.

A Dylan Biumi free throw followed by another basket from Gagen made the score 71-64 with just over a minute to play, but the Longhorns were forced to foul and the Raiders secured the victory at the free-throw line.

Bush (team-high 14 points), Morris (11) and Trevor Shipes (10) all scored in double figures for the Longhorns, while Gagen added nine. Alpharetta’s Ty Toney was also in double figures with 16 points.

"We played a great fourth quarter," Bracco said. "We showed a lot of effort. We’re just going to learn from this game and move on."

Lambert will play host to North Forsyth on Tuesday.

Alpharetta (girls) 71, Lambert 45

The Lady Longhorns might have turned in their best all-around performance of the season, but it wasn’t enough to pull out a victory after falling into a deep, early hole against Alpharetta.

Kylee Smith scored 13 of her game-high 26 points in the first quarter to help the Lady Raiders build a 34-11 lead on Lambert (6-7, 1-3 Region 6-AAAAAA) by the opening minutes of the second quarter and cruise to a 71-45 victory on Friday at Lambert.

Alpharetta (10-2, 4-0), the defending Region 6-AAAAA champion, remains unbeaten in region play this season.

"I’m really happy with the way our girls competed," Lambert head coach Seth Thompson said. "[Alpharetta is] probably a final four [caliber] team.

"We started three freshmen tonight, so we’re feeling pretty good [all things considered]. That team, if we had played them at the beginning of the year, would have probably beaten us by 50."

Behind Smith, Alpharetta reeled off a 12-0 run midway through the first quarter. She finished the first half with 18 points but was held to eight after halftime.

"We did a better job on her in the second half," Thompson said. "We kept losing track of her in the first half."

Alpharetta benefitted from a steady diet of transition baskets, especially in the first half, but the Lady Raiders also proved dangerous in their half-court offense.

Brittany Outlaw dominated the paint in the second half, when she scored 14 of her 16 points, and Lauren Brown consistently knocked down pull-up jumpers en route to 10 points.

"Lauren Brown, she got 10 on us, and I think eight of those were from pull-up jumpers," Thompson said. "We’re there, we’re competing and defending, but she’s just knocking them down and it’s just tough to defend."

Senior forward Peyton Card, who is working her way back from an injury, led Lambert with 15 points while Corrie Baker added 10.

Lambert will play host to North Forsyth on Tuesday.