The Lambert boys basketball team didn’t look like itself in the first few minutes of their Holiday Classic nightcap against Collins Hill on Friday night.
Neither team shot particularly well in the first quarter, but Lambert was making uncharacteristic mental mistakes and were getting outmatched on the boards. That lack of early success inside drew the ire of Longhorns head coach Scott Bracco, and of the 6-foot-8 inch Colin Granger.
“He was pretty mad at me, and I was mad at myself for not performing as I should be,” Granger said. “He told be to go out and dominate in the second half.”
Sure enough, the Longhorns’ big man turned it up when it mattered most, owning the paint in the game’s last two quarters to lead Lambert to a decisive 80-64 victory over the Eagles.
“(Collins Hill’s) a very good team and a very athletic team,” Bracco said. “I’m just glad at the way we settled in, played defense and rebounded the ball.”
Luke Champion made Lambert’s first basket with 5:30 left in the opening period, but Collins Hill made a three with four minutes left to go up 9-4. Despite that, Collins Hill didn’t take full advantage of their success on the glass early on, and the Longhorns didn’t take long to get back to being their usual selves.
Granger executed his first big play of the night with 3:15 left in the first on a Mitch Ganote pick, going up uncontested for a slam. The dunk began a 10-0 run to end the first quarter, with Lambert taking a 14-9 lead heading into the second.
“I think it just wasn’t clicking at first,” Granger said. “I think it just took us a minute to get a little warm. That’s something that definitely needs to be fixed moving on later in the season and heading into the playoffs.”
While Granger took a little while to get his game going, Ganote did plenty to pick him up, with three successive baskets to end the first quarter. His success continued into the second, with a jumper extending Lambert’s lead to 20-14. Ganote had 17 points in the first half alone and finished the game with a double double with 12 assists.
Trailing the Longhorns 37-28 at the break, Collins Hill began its own short run, narrowing the score to 37-35. It was then that Granger really found his stride. The Eagles couldn’t stop him inside, and with all his short buckets, he helped Lambert get back into a comfortable lead.
After two straight buckets from Ganote and a three from Champion, the Longhorns entered the fourth with a 20-point lead that they never came close to giving up. Granger kept his success going, with successive dunks early in the fourth quarter. He finished his night with a double-double of his own, with 29 points and 13 rebounds.
“He dominated the paint for us and he did a great job rebounding the basketball,” Bracco said. “I think this was a great team win for us.”