Briley Elder missed much of her sophomore season because of a torn ACL.
But if Friday night's 31-point outburst is any indication, Elder's injury appears to be well behind her.
Lambert's junior shooting guard erupted for 21 second-half points, draining five 3-pointers and helping the Longhorns to a 61-38 win over Forsyth Central and their first region victory of the season.
"Briley shot it well, and she's had one other game, but she's coming off a yearlong injury and she's getting back in her groove," Lambert head coach Brian Moon said. "Tonight she looked more like herself, kind of like how she did last year finishing at the basket. She's still a step slower than she was, but she's pretty crafty and did a good job. I'm proud of her. She had a good game."
The Bulldogs managed to quiet Elder and the Longhorns for much of the first half. Through the first quarter of play, it seemed Central guard Jillian Bretz would be the one primed for a big night after scoring 10 points in the opening frame.
Bretz accounted for the first two 3-pointers of the game, and in between those two shots, managed to turn a steal into a layup to give Central an early 12-5 lead. Minutes later, she had a putback to slap an exclamation point on a highly productive quarter.
However, the Longhorns limited Bretz to just one made field goal over the final three quarters.
Moon said his goal entering the game was to hold Bretz to 16 or fewer points. She finished with exactly 16 points.
"She's a really good player," Moon said. "They're kind of like us — they've got a lot of inexperienced players too. I thought we did a good job. We put about three or four [different] players on her. We tried Annarose [Tyre], our freshman point guard, guard her some, Lilly Sistla guarded her some, Shelby Lawrence guarded her a little bit in there. So, those three kind of tag-teamed her and did a good job."
Bretz's made her final field goal count, though, somehow scoring an a marvelous one-handed heave as she fell to the ground while being fouled. Bretz stood up and walked to the free-throw line, where she buried the shot to give the Bulldogs a 24-20 lead heading into halftime.
Lambert wasted no time in the second half, as Tyre connected from 3-point range to pull the Longhorns within one point. A pair of Central free throws made it a three-point game again, but Mackenzie Weyer answered with a left-handed layup.
Central sophomore Taylor Jackson and Elder traded 3-pointers, and when Tyre went to the free-throw line seconds later and sank both shots, it marked the Longhorns' first lead of the game with 4:38 left in the third quarter.
Lambert scored the next nine points to take control, which included an impressive layup by senior Sydney Colin, who fought through two defenders for a tough bucket.
Colin finished with 12 points and five rebounds, scoring half her points in the fourth quarter.
"She's had two double-doubles this year," Moon said. "That's one of the things we're really needing from her, is to be aggressive both offensively and defensively, and to be a little bit more assertive in there. This is probably the first game we've played all year where she hasn't been about two inches shorter than the other post player, so that's kind of good to see."
Lambert poured it on in the fourth quarter to turn a 39-31 lead into a 23-point victory. Five different players scored in the final quarter, including Zoe Zhuang, whose layup in the final minutes made it 61-35.
Jackson accounted for all seven of the Bulldogs' fourth-quarter points and finished with 10 points.
Lambert [7-8, 1-3 Region 6-7A] has won three in a row and will host South Gwinnett on Saturday before returning to region play on Tuesday against Denmark.
"I'm proud of our girls," Moon said. "I thought they battled pretty good and didn't get rattled. This time last year, I'm not sure we would have handled things as well."
Central [0-17, 0-5 Region 6-7A] will travel to West on Tuesday in search of its first victory.