Musa Thompson was walking out of the lobby of the Forsyth Central Arena on Friday night, almost free to join his teammates on what was sure to be a lively bus ride back to Lambert after the Longhorns’ 81-80 double-overtime victory, when a green-coated woman stopped him in his tracks.
“Musa for 3!” she shouted.
Thompson turned, and smiled.
Down 80-78, the senior hit a 3-pointer with 11.6 seconds left in the second overtime to put Lambert ahead for good. Central had one final chance to win the game, but Longhorns senior Andrew Melms stripped Bulldogs standout CJ Smith as he drove to the basket.
Austin Deckard led five Lambert (22-3, 10-0 Region 5-7A) players in double figures with 22 points. Mitch Ganote had 13 points, Damon Stoudamire had 12, including 10 in the two overtimes, while Matt Ganote added 11 and Jordan McIlwain scored 10.
CJ Smith led Central (12-13, 4-6) and all scorers with 28 points, including all seven of Central’s points in the first overtime, but the sharp-shooter was held scoreless in the second overtime. Ethan Hester added 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Grant Cloud had 11 points.
“I just think both teams played great tonight,” Lambert Coach Scott Bracco said. “It was an unbelievable atmosphere. I’m just proud of the way the guys finished the game.”
Lambert had rolled through county opponents the first time through the Region 5-7A schedule, but Friday was the second straight closer-than-expected game for the Longhorns following a 65-61 win against rival South Forsyth on Tuesday
Central had Lambert on the ropes too. The Longhorns trailed 58-49 in the fourth quarter after Jackson Leak turned a steal into a fast break layup. But Lambert promptly went on a 10-3 run to close within 61-59. Mitch Ganote later made two free throws to give the Longhorns a brief 64-63 lead.
Still, the teams ended regulation tied 65-65, then the first overtime 72-72, an unfamiliar scenario for Lambert this season.
“The craziest part of this game was the very first overtime,” Thompson said. “We’re so used to things coming so naturally to us. But when things got really close it started getting really crazy for us. It was going back and forth. We were just getting really nervous.”
Thompson calmed the nerves finally. Melms held the ball as time dwindled in the second overtime. When the clock hit 13 seconds, he drove to the basket but was defended well.
No one defended Thompson. He was open behind the arc, and Melms kicked it out to him for the eventual game-winning shot.
“I just float around the 3 at a nice angle, and when they kick it out I just got to knock it down,” Thompson said.
Lambert girls 63, Central 22
Molly Williams had a game-high 15 points, and the Lady Longhorns finished off the best regular season in program history Friday in a Region 5-7A game on the road.
Leah Cote added 10 points off the bench for Lambert (22-2, 10-0), which will enter next week’s region tournament with the top seed, a bye in the first round and a state playoff appearance already secured.
“It’s a great accomplishment – so far,” Lambert Coach Jaime Fisher said. “We feel like we still have work to do. We’re very pleased to go undefeated in our region. Those games are the most important games, and to be able to go undefeated, it says a lot about how far our girls have come.”
Gina Fishler led Central (1-23, 1-9) with six points to go along with eight rebounds, but Lambert was too suffocating on defense. The Lady Longhorns led 36-10 at halftime, then held the Lady Bulldogs to just one point in the third quarter.
It was that kind of defensive effort that was missing for Lambert last season when it lost in the region tournament and failed to make the state playoffs a year after reaching the Class 6A second round.
Lambert’s glad to be back – sort of.
“We still have our goals,” Williams said. “We’re happy we’re [in the state playoffs] and that’s secured, but we still want to get region championship, we still set goals so we can keep getting better.”