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Basketball: Lambert beats West Forsyth, clinches region's top seed outright
02102023 LAMBERT BBB
Lambert's Keenan Gagen lays the ball up against West Forsyth during a Region 6-7A matchup Tuesday at home. (Photo by Kevin O'Brien)

The Lambert boys basketball team rallied past West Forsyth for a 56-48 victory to collect its sixth straight win Tuesday at home.

Cam Bland finished as the leading scorer for Lambert with 18 points, James Tyre added 12 points, and Keenan Gagen chipped in with 11 points. As for West Forsyth, Sam Maynard ended with 16 points.  

As a result of this win, it secures Lambert's position as the No. 1 team in Region 6-7A entering the league's tournament.

Lambert’s James Tyre got the scoring action started by using a screen, and with enough separation, he knocked down a deep 3.

It took until three minutes into the game for the Wolverines to get a bucket to drop on Gray Smith’s shot. However, the Longhorns responded with an interior basket of their own.

Sophomore Cam Bland jumped the passing lane and demonstrated his quickness to get to the rim, where he finished the fast break effortlessly to grow the lead to 9-2.

The Longhorns defense was all over the place, and it really affected the Wolverines offensive flow. West Forsyth ended the first quarter shooting 2-for-10 from the field, although Lambert was only able to get a seven-point cushion at 13-6. 

Both teams were capitalizing on each other's turnovers, with Braden Halloran finishing for the Wolverines and Bland drawing fouls but still making his free throws. 

Tyre grabbed the rebound from a missed 3 by Lachlan Povenz and exploded down the court for a layup — increasing the Longhorns' lead to double digits. 

The Longhorns were already fired up from scoring on four consecutive possessions, but the play that ignited the home crowd and bench came when Jack Whipple finished with a dunk. Yet West Forsyth's Chase Damerell showed off his bunnies, as well, for a dunk of his own off a turnover.

The last six minutes of the second quarter were all Lambert. With Tyre, Bland, Whipple, Griffin Redmond, Ethan Burrell and Will Dopfer scoring, the Longhorns went into halftime with a 27-15 advantage.

The Longhorns continued full-court press the Wolverines but that didn’t stop Damerell from driving to the hoop and finishing the layup with contact. 

To begin the third quarter, Halloran knocked down a deep 3-pointer for the Wolverines. Despite this, it didn’t take long for the Longhorns to make a 3-pointer to fire back. 

Halloran shook his defender, faking outside before cutting to the rim, and ​​Damerell hit him on the money to lay the ball up. Later, the Wolverines ran a play that freed Halloran, and he sank a wide-open 3-pointer. 

In the final minute of the third quarter, Povenz beat the shot clock by dribbling on the defender and then hitting him with a fadeaway jumper.  

The Wolverines opened the fourth quarter by outscoring the Longhorns 7-2 into the first three minutes to cut the deficit to 44-34. A tech by Dopfer sent Maynard to the free throw line, and then an aggressive play by the Longhorns sent Maynard to the line again. 

The Wolverines again were drawing fouls to rally their way back. Derek Pepin, Banks Willoughby and Damerell converted one free throw each to cut the deficit 44-40 with 4:16 left to play. 

Bland snapped the Wolverines' momentum with a drive to the hoop, then a charging foul was issued to Smith. Tyre navigated his way past his defender and hit a shot that made West Forsyth call a timeout. 

Halloran passed to Maynard for a 3-pointer, but Tyre hit a 3-pointer in Halloran's grill and looked at his bench with a smile. The Longhorns made a defensive stop, and it ended with Bland dashing his way to the rim, ruining the Wolverines’ comeback.

The two teams could meet again next week in the region tournament semifinals.

As the top seed, Lambert is guaranteed a spot in the semis, while fifth-seeded West Forsyth could get there with a win over No. 4 seed South Forsyth Feb. 11 at home.