Lambert’s Braxton Beaty corralled the ball along the visitors’ sideline and stared down the center of the court, seeing nothing but an uncovered basket.
Milton, fresh off a 14-0 run that ended just minutes before, was firmly in the lead, and the Longhorns needed something, anything to try to turn the momentum their way. As Beaty moved to the opposite end, the Eagles’ Evan Hurst sprinted behind him and caught up just in time, leaping up to block Beaty’s shot to a thunderous roar.
While Beaty drew a foul on that play, it was one of many that exemplified the whole night for Lambert. Milton, playing in front of a raucous home crowd and attempting to avenge an overtime loss to the Longhorns earlier in the season, was playing in fully inspired fashion.
Lambert was down 13 at halftime on Tuesday night, the same amount that they trailed before beating Milton on Dec. 14. With the Eagles jumping out to a fast offensive start and executing a punishing defense, though, there wasn’t a thrilling ending for the Longhorns this time, as they fell handily by a 73-52 score.
Lambert, which went into the night with an undefeated record in Region 5-7A play, dropped to 6-1. The Longhorns are now tied with Milton for the top spot with three region matchups to go.
“Milton came out and made a lot of shots early, and that gave them a lot of confidence,” Lambert head coach Scott Bracco said. “They played hard on the defensive end. Milton made shots and they really played hard tonight.”
At first, both teams looked like they were about evenly matched. Colin Granger banked in a shot underneath the basket after Milton’s Malachi Martin made a corner three to start the game. Granger added a putback dunk off a Mitch Ganote layup attempt to make it 8-6 Milton with 3:57 left in the first quarter, but the Eagles continued to match every point the Longhorns put up.
The Longhorns couldn’t get their threes to fall early on, while Milton began to extend the gap, capping the first quarter off with another three from Martin. At the end of one, Lambert trailed 17-11, but there was still a good chance for the Longhorns to climb back in.
Those hopes took a big hit in the second quarter. After getting a three-point play to start the frame, Hurst added an uncontested dunk and a layup to start the Eagles’ longest run of the night, putting Lambert in dire straits down 28-11 with 5:07 left to the half. Ganote got into some foul trouble in the first half, and to make matters worse, the Longhorns began to rush things a bit on the offensive end.
“We’d come down and take a lot of bad shots,” Granger said. “I think we’d throw stuff up before we’d really get settled down. That didn’t help us with our issue of being kind of frantic out there.”
Lambert faced a 36-23 halftime deficit to overcome, but the Longhorns never came close to doing that. By the end of the third, the Eagles still led by double digits, and the game felt over.
“Our defense had some holes in it,” Granger said. “They were really getting into the heart of our defense more that we should have let them. That kind of messed us up.”
While Milton and Lambert will not face each other again in the regular season, the Longhorns hope that come region tournament time, they’ll get another shot to display their own intensity while avenging a less than stellar night.
“We’ve got a big target on our back and we’ve earned that target,” Bracco said. “We’ll be ready the next time we play them.”
Lambert girls 55, Milton 34
Lambert’s girls breezed to their second region win of the season, jumping out to a 13-3 lead over the Eagles by the end of the first quarter. The Longhorns never came close to surrendering it, leading 30-16 at halftime.
Ansley Dean led Lambert with 14 points. Katie and Kristen Carmichael finished with 12 and 10, respectively.