Before the Lambert boys basketball team’s opening tip against North Forsyth on Monday night, Colin Granger knew he was about to bring the punishment.
In the first few minutes of the game, Lambert’s big man intercepted a North pass and went up uncontested for an early slam dunk. As he came down, he yelled out as he slammed his arms against the railing to stop himself, letting out a week’s worth of frustration.
He and the rest of the Longhorns had every reason to carry that emotion. Over their last two games, Lambert, once an undefeated 6-0 against Region 5-7A opponents, suffered through a blowout loss to Milton and a last minute upset against West Forsyth.
On Monday night, though, Lambert looked every bit like the team that opened its region schedule unbeaten. The Longhorns’ early effectiveness from the field and their size suffocated the visiting Raiders early on, and Lambert easily took a 93-67 victory to get back into the win column.
Lambert improved to 7-2 in region play, good enough for a second place spot behind Milton. North fell to 1-8.
“I’m almost positive that I’ve never lost back-to-back games in three years on varsity,” Granger, who scored a team-leading 26 points, said. “That kind of (made me mad). The fire in me that came from those two games just kind of came out tonight.”
Lambert’s size advantage stuck out early, and for the first few minutes, the Longhorns had the clear edge in shotmaking as well. North tried working the inside to no avail, and couldn’t connect from the floor. After Granger’s slam, Braxton Beaty hit a jumper to put Lambert out in front 7-0.
Will Baker and Mitch Ganote got in on the action, and over the next few minutes, Lambert increased its edge to 20-6 before North’s Braden Collins and Maddux Puskus helped narrow the lead to a manageable 23-15 heading into the second. That eight-point deficit was the closest North ever came to tying it up.
“They’re more physical,” North head coach David Sokol said. “It’s hard to come back when they have five guys that can score. We had a hard time stopping them. We’re not a fantastic offensive team, so we’ve got to make shots on the other end.”
Ganote, who racked up 17 points and 11 assists, added some nifty baskets in the second quarter to help put the Longhorns far ahead, and Granger even made a shot from behind the three-point line. By the end of the first half, Lambert was up 54-30, with the eventual outcome essentially set. Lambert pulled its starters for the fourth quarter.
Even with a favorable matchup against Forsyth Central coming up to close the regular season, the Longhorns are no longer in the drivers' seat for Region 5-7A's No. 1 seed. Their goal now is to make sure that doesn't matter come region tournament time.
“We just had a hiccup in the road,” Lambert head coach Scott Bracco said. “We’ve going to continue to get better every day. We still have to improve. I challenged the guys.”
North Forsyth girls 66, Lambert 27
North’s girls cruised by Lambert to take their ninth straight victory on Monday night, maintaining a perfect record in Region 5-7A play. The Raiders jumped out to a 29-13 lead at the end of one. With 4:11 left in the opening period, North junior Caroline Martin reached a milestone, connecting on a three to score her 1,000th career point.
“It was awesome,” Martin said. “I don’t even know how to describe it. It was just cool to see everyone that made signs and everything. I felt like everyone supported me.”
Caroline Martin gets user 1,000th point!!! pic.twitter.com/yLVvHrbk22— North Forsyth BBall (@NoFoBball) January 28, 2019
North held a 38-21 lead at halftime, and after a third quarter in which Lambert scored just two points, the Raiders eventually secured the win.
Martin and Ansley Allen scored 12 and 15 points, respectively. Jenny McKenna and Grace Gomez led the Longhorns with five points each.