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Basketball: Lambert boys fall to Milton in region championship
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Lambert’s Mitch Ganote, left, has the ball knocked loose Friday in the Longhorns’ 81-70 loss to Milton in the Region 5-7A championship. - photo by Micah Green

MILTON – Lambert boys basketball suffered its first region loss in two seasons in the Region 5-7A championship game against Milton on Friday night, dropping the game 81-70.

The stadium shook from the tip. Lambert entered as the higher seed, but Milton was hosting the teams’ third matchup of the year. Milton had suffered two region losses all season, both to the visiting Longhorns. The first contest was a five-point home win for Lambert, and the second a nine-point road win.

Lambert’s Jordan Mcilwain was the first player to score, giving the team the first and only lead of the game. Milton’s senior and Duke signee Alex O’Connell reclaimed the lead for Milton, but it was Christian Wright who led the way.

Wright gave Lambert’s defense fits. Lambert’s defense is built largely on trapping the ball handler, but Wright’s speed opened up the floor and didn’t allow for easy traps.

Lambert started to find more consistent offensive success in the second quarter when O’Connell went to the bench in foul trouble. Milton led by as many as 10 points, but Austin Deckard began to hit open 3s to go along with the team’s 10 first-half free throws to cut the lead to four going into the half.

The third quarter had a similar narrative. Lambert trailed by as many as 10 points, but a spark off the bench from Musa Thompson got the lead back down to one. It wasn’t until late in the third quarter Milton started to really pull away.

Wright had 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, giving Milton the burst to reclaim a commanding lead.

Once Milton got up by 11, it was a comeback Lambert simply couldn’t put together.

“We didn’t do a great job on the defensive end. They were able to get to the basket a lot,” Lambert head coach Scott Bracco said. “It’s really tough to beat a team three times.”

Lambert’s loss marks its first since Dec. 6, 2016, and its first region loss in two entire seasons.

“I didn’t think [Milton] could shoot the ball, but they made some shots today,” Bracco said. “That was our game plan, and I give them credit. They made shots when they had to.”

Lambert enters the state tournament as the No. 2 seed, assured of hosting at least one playoff game on its road to claim the school’s first state title.

“This team will regroup,” Bracco said. “I can remember back when I was the coach at Dunwoody, we finished second in the region but went on to win the state title.”