Lambert’s massive lead dwindled down to a few points in crunch time, but the Longhorns didn’t let a big upset slip away under pressure.
Logan Bush scored 25 points and Jake Morris added 15 as the Longhorns built a 19-point advantage at halftime and held on to hand No. 9-ranked Chattahoochee a 68-65 loss on senior night Friday at Lambert, ending the Cougars’ 13-game winning streak.
"We wanted to get [this win against] them because we didn’t play our best the last time we played them," Bush said, referring to an 80-56 loss to the Cougars on Jan. 15. "We knew we could play with them and we came out with a lot more intensity to try to get more momentum going into the region tournament."
Chattahoochee played without starting post players Trey Archambeau — who averaged 19 points and nine rebounds per game this season — and Ben Napoletan. Both were lost to season-ending injuries in mid-January, but the Cougars managed to continue winning without them prior to facing Lambert for the second time this season.
The Longhorns (15-9, 9-4 Region 6-AAAAAA) established a 37-18 lead going into halftime and knocked down 16 of 21 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter to hold off the Cougars (19-6, 12-2).
Lambert went 6-of-6 at the foul line in the final 30 seconds of the game.
"It didn’t hurt to make those free throws," Bush said. "They were getting closer and closer and the fact that we hit most of our free throws definitely played a [big] part in halting their [comeback].
Chattahoochee seemed to sense early on that this meeting with the Longhorns would be very different from the first. Cougars head coach Kacey Martin called a timeout just 59 seconds into the game after his squad fell behind 5-0, but that did nothing to slow down the Longhorns.
Bush scored eight points in the opening period, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer that put the Longhorns ahead 20-8 going into the second period.
The junior forward knocked down two more shots from beyond the arc in the second period, including one in the final minute before halftime, and Morris drove into the paint and dropped in a layup at the buzzer to give the Longhorns all the momentum going into the second half.
"In the first half we just came out and made some big shots and forced them into some contested shots," Lambert head coach Scott Bracco said. "We were just fortunate to build a [big] lead by halftime."
Fortunate, because the Cougars came storming back in the third quarter.
Chattahoochee rode the hot hands of Markus Terry (game-high 29 points) and Marcus Sheffield (19) to narrow the gap to 46-41 entering the fourth period.
The Cougars cut Lambert’s lead to three points on four separate occasions in the final period but couldn’t get any closer. Bush twice delivered points to nurse Lambert’s lead back to two possessions, and forward Trevor Shipes scored six of his eight points in the final period.
When the Cougars again cut the lead back to three with 30 seconds remaining, Longhorns point guard Matt Melms stepped up and made two critical free throws. Bush and Brennan Gagen later added two apiece to seal the victory.
"We didn’t do a good job in the second half," Bracco said. "We got a little comfortable and they made shots in the third quarter.
"We’ve got to be smarter down the stretch. We need to close out games a little bit better than that."
Chattahoochee (girls) 54, Lambert 45
Lambert pulled one disappearing act too many.
The Lady Longhorns narrowed a 30-19 halftime deficit down to one point with under three minutes to play in the fourth quarter, then gave up 11 unanswered points and suffered a 54-45 loss to Chattahoochee on senior night Friday at Lambert.
"We were just flat tonight, real flat," Lambert head coach Seth Thompson said. "We couldn’t get our offense clicking and we couldn’t get stops to match them. ... Their energy was just better than ours tonight."
Cassidy Gaillard (game-high 19 points), Amari Carter (18) and Erin Morrow (16) combined to score 53 of the Lady Cougars’ 54 points, while Peyton Card led the Lady Longhorns with 17 and grabbed her 750th career rebound during the game. Morgan Jackson added 10 points for the Lady Longhorns.
Lambert (9-15, 4-9 Region 6-AAAAAA) got off to a quick start and led 9-4 midway through the first quarter, but Chattahoochee (13-11, 5-9) turned up the defensive intensity and reeled off a 22-5 run with the help of several Lambert turnovers. The Lady Longhorns turned the ball over 24 times during the game.
"They were much more patient this go-around," Thompson said of Chattahoochee.
"They were shooting really well. They were really efficient from the foul line; they were 12 of 15."
Lambert got a big spark from Jackson in the second half, as the senior guard scored the first five points of the third period to narrow Chattahoochee’s lead to 30-24. She followed up those points by coming away with steals on three consecutive Chattahoochee possessions, but Lambert was only able to produce one point out of those turnovers.
Card took over in the fourth quarter when she scored nine points, including a layup that narrowed the deficit to 43-42 with under three minutes to play.
Lambert made a stop on Chattahoochee’s ensuing possession and had a chance to take the lead, but a turnover allowed Carter to score an easy putback off a missed fast break layup.
Gaillard later added another wide-open basket inside on an inbound play, and the Lady Cougars sealed the game at the free throw line.
"We thought we could come in and play well against them," Thompson said. "We’ve been playing better every game and we’ve really improved, but tonight ... this is a tough one to accept."