MILTON – Lambert's boys basketball team clinched its spot in the Region 5-7A championship game by beating West Forsyth 86-64 on Wednesday night at Milton High School.
The last game Lambert played, the Longhorns found themselves trailing against Forsyth Central with just seconds to go in double overtime. This Lambert team had faced little turmoil all season, beating region opponents by double digits routinely. The double overtime victory put the first question mark on the first-seeded Longhorns, and they had to answer it on Wednesday night against an ever-improving West team.
West struggled to find its groove all season. The Wolverines (5-22) only managed to win two region game, but the team found a little momentum late in the year. They gave South all they could handle in their last regular season game, and they entered Wednesday night coming off a victory over the team that took Lambert to double overtime.
Lambert erased the question mark early in the game. Much like the rest of the regular season, Lambert used its fast-paced defense to force early turnovers that turned into easy 3-point shots. The Longhorns jumped out to a 28-11 lead after the first quarter, closing it out with an 11-0 run.
The beginning of the second quarter saw some fight from West. The Wolverines kept pace with Lambert, slowly dwindling the lead, until Jordan McIlwain and Austin Deckard started to heat up. The juniors were finding points from both beyond the arc and around the hoop.
McIlwain scored 16 of his game-high 19 points in the first half. Deckard added 12 first half points and 15 total.
“I think our guards did a great job,” Lambert Coach Scott Bracco said. “Jordan McIlwain played great in the first half, and Austin Deckard shot the ball well.”
Lambert led 58-29 at half time, essentially locking up the victory with two quarters left to play. The second units for both West and Lambert came onto the floor about halfway through the third quarter when Lambert had a 71-36 lead.
“We wanted to play together, apply pressure, and attack the boards,” Bracco said. “I’m proud of the guys for this game. We were able to play everyone and had some guys step up late.”
Lambert goes into Friday with a chance for its third straight region championship. They face Milton, a team they beat by an average of seven points in their two previous meetings. Milton boasts Alex O’Connell, a Duke commit, who was quiet in the regular season matchups.
The region championship game tips off at 8:30 on Friday night at Milton High School.