POWDER SPRINGS — One of the distinguishing features and greatest strengths of the McEachern boys basketball team is its pace, its ability to force baskets down opponents’ throats, particularly after misses. That wasn’t what fazed Lambert, though.
“They didn’t wear us down,” Longhorns head coach Scott Bracco said. “…We actually play faster than they do.”
Through the first half of Thursday’s state tournament second-round matchup, the Longhorns used that ability to not get out-run, as well as a scrappy rebounding performance and some well-timed 3s, to enter the break trailing the Indians, Class 7A’s top-ranked team, just 32-28.
They couldn’t hold on much longer, though.
McEachern, which had opened the game on a 12-0 run, began the second half with three straight baskets, and while the Longhorns kept the margin within single digits at the end of the third quarter, another 12-0 spurt to start the final period helped clear the way for a 69-50 final score for the Indians.
An emphatic alley-oop slam from Isaac Okoro, with the feed coming Sharife Cooper, punctuated the Indians’ fourth-quarter dominance.
“The only disadvantage (we had) was just their length,” Longhorns guard Musa Thompson said. “They’re really long, so they could get a hand on a lot of shots we had. But we could easily run with them.”
Lambert’s tight ball control and judicious shot selection in the first half helped the Longhorns offset that size advantage, but after the break, they couldn’t get enough makes to halt McEachern’s runs.
The Indians (28-0) regularly demonstrated their above-average playmaking skills, like when Babatunde Akingbola threw down a vicious two-handed jam to make the score 41-33. On the next possession, Brandon Suggs won the battle for an offensive board and finished an easy layup to make put the lead in double digits.
Lambert was upbeat after the defeat, though, having finished with a 24-5 record and showed that it could hang with a team that has made appearances in national rankings.
“Us coming out here, being the underdogs, they really didn’t expect as much from us,” Thompson said. “We came out and we just showed them that we can play with them.”