SUGAR HILL Lamberts boys basketball team didnt have to wait for New Years Eve to hold a celebration. A little more than 24 hours before fixtures like the Times Square Ball were ready to drop, the Longhorns spent a moment raising the programs first trophy of any kind. Lambert won the Lanier Christmas Tournament by defeating the host Longhorns 69-61 in a back-and-forth championship game late Friday night, completing a perfect 3-0 run in the event. Lambert repeatedly made extra passes during the game, turning solid scoring opportunities into wide-open opportunities. Afterward, all of Lamberts players gathered around for an interview in the same manner theyve been playing this season as a cohesive group. Senior forward Colin Perzella said it means a lot to secure the first piece of hardware in the programs short three-year history. We all wanted it so bad this entire tournament, he said. It feels great to get it done. Fellow senior Jake Alexander didnt mince words about what makes this group of players special. Were the most unselfish basketball team youll ever meet. Thats just the way it is, Alexander said. A teammate within the crowd yelled were a family, and Alexander was quick to agree. Were a family, he said. Were brothers. We love to share. Lambert (11-2) had to do plenty of sharing to outlast Lanier. Neither team was able to establish anything more than a five-point lead until midway through the fourth quarter. Lambert led from tip-off until the closing seconds of the first period, but the lead changed hands nine times during the second quarter. Logan Bush scored 13 of his team-high 17 points for Lambert in the first half, including a 3-point play he finished at the foul line to tie the game with 14 seconds left before halftime. That allowed Laniers M.J. Bryant (game-high 18 points) enough time to overcome a double-team and answer with an NBA-range 3-pointer before the buzzer, giving the hosts a 37-34 lead at the half and all the momentum going into the third quarter. Lanier remained ahead 43-38 midway through the third quarter before things truly seemed to click for Lambert. Jake Morris (14 points) knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to two points, starting a 10-0 run by the visiting Longhorns. Alexander (13) then scored the next two baskets of the game inside and Danny Edgeworth (16) completed a 3-point play at the foul line to put Lambert on top 48-43. Lanier responded with the next two baskets and trimmed the lead back to a point, but Edgeworth caught an inbound pass underneath the basket and banked in a shot to give Lambert a 50-47 advantage going into the fourth quarter. Lamberts defense took over after that, holding Lanier to one point through the first four minutes and 10 seconds of the final period. With Lambert leading 53-48, Bush found Edgeworth in the paint for two more easy points. Seconds after that field goal, Alexander followed an Edgeworth miss with a successful putback that increased the lead to 57-48 with 4:02 remaining. Just over a minute later, Bush drove inside for a layup that established Lamberts biggest lead of the night, 63-51, but it was hardly smooth sailing the rest of the way. Alexander, Perzella and Edgeworth all fouled out in the closing minutes. Lanier proceeded to cut the gap to 65-59 when Andre Irvin (16 points) drove the length of the floor and converted a layup with 1:08 to play, forcing Lambert to secure the win at the free throw line. Morris answered the bell by converting four consecutive attempts from the stripe, and Lanier managed just two points during the final minute. I told our guys today at shoot around, it takes a special player to play my system this year, Lambert head coach Derrick DeWitt said. They have to be patient, but they have to be the best they can be, and thats hard to do as a teenager. Theyre buying in and trusting each other and making extra passes. Its beautiful to see. Lambert reached the championship game after defeating Cedar Shoals 63-61 in the opening round and South Forsyth 72-62 in the semifinal round. The Longhorns get a week of rest before returning to region play this Friday on the road against Creekview. Going [back] into region [games], it means a lot, Bush said of the trophy win, because in this tournament, we played against a lot better teams [than earlier this season]. Were getting used to more physical basketball and just better basketball, really, than what weve been playing in the first half of the season. Lambert 72, South Forsyth 62 (semifinals) Late in the third quarter Thursday, Lambert point guard Matt Melms drove inside and, while on the run, tried to pass back out to a teammate in the corner. A South Forsyth player deflected the ball directly back to Melms, who suddenly had open space underneath the basket, and he put up a shot that rolled almost a full 360 degrees around the rim before falling in. The breaks seemed to go the Longhorns way all night during a victory against the War Eagles in the tournament semifinals. Fortunately the ball was bouncing our way, and sometimes we fought our way to a position to make an impact on the game, DeWitt said. The Longhorns benefitted from lucky bounces at times, but their defensive pressure was all about effort. Lambert seized control in the second quarter by holding the War Eagles scoreless for a span of 4:15 on the game clock. The Longhorns went on a 17-2 run during the period and led 36-25 at halftime. The War Eagles continued to struggle with Lamberts full-court press at the start of the second half, turning the ball over on their first three possessions. A field goal by Alexander and a field goal and free throw by Edgeworth allowed Lambert to extend the lead to 41-25 during that time. I thought our defensive intensity was where it should have been today, DeWitt said. Weve had some team-building activities since Christmas break that are paying dividends for us; guys buying into my philosophy and understanding their roles and what they have to do for us to win close ball games. Coming off a 30-point performance the previous day, senior shooting guard Mark McCorkle did his best to keep South in the game. McCorkle (game-high 24 points) hit five 3-pointers in the third period, accounting for Souths first 15 points of the second half before forward Taniel Pike added a basket late near the end of the quarter. But McCorkles efforts werent enough to keep the Longhorns from building on their 11-point halftime lead and taking a 56-42 advantage into the third quarter. The game never fully got out of reach, but the War Eagles werent ever able to make a serious run or trim the deficit to single digits at any point in the second half. Lamberts biggest lead was 17 points, 62-45, early in the fourth quarter. The War Eagles closed the gap to 65-55 on a free throw by Greer Landry with 2:43 to play but couldnt get any closer. Bush and Mark Champion each knocked a pair of free throws to push the lead to 69-55 and erase any hopes of a South rally. We want to be as fast as we can and as smart as we can, DeWitt said. It requires a lot of attention, but they did a great job today not giving up on any play or any loose ball. In typical Lambert fashion, six players scored eight points or more, but no one finished with more than 12 half of McCorkles total. Alexander (12 points) and Bush (10) were both in double figures, Morris scored nine and Edgeworth, Champion and Perzella added eight apiece.
Basketball: Horns hoist first trophy
Lambert wins Lanier Christmas Tournament