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Basketball: Lambert girls prevail in overtime against Central Gwinnett in first round
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Molly Williams and Lambert needed overtime to defeat Central Gwinnett on Friday in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs. - photo by Micah Green

The Lambert girls basketball team has learned to thrive in chaos this season. In the Lady Longhorns’ 58-51 overtime home win over Central Gwinnett on Friday night, the craziness put the team in a familiar situation.

The idea of playing their best basketball when the play on the court is in complete disarray is nothing new to the Lambert girls. In fact, their entire mentality is in creating this madness. Lambert became notorious this season for their fast, heavy-trapping defense. That defense caused turnover after turnover, loose ball after loose ball, and frustration for the opponent, and sometimes for themselves.

The last week for the Lambert girls has been nothing short of a microcosm of that approach.

Just seven days before Friday night, Lambert trailed by six points with less than two minutes left in the region championship game. The lead was a tall task for anyone to surmount, but Lambert did what it always does when they need to find their momentum—make it crazy. Their fast-paced defense caused the turnovers it needed to, giving M.E. Craven the ability to clinch the game at the free throw line.

Just three days before Friday night, Lambert’s head coach Jamie Fisher threw a little more ‘crazy’ into the mix. Fisher gave birth to a 10-pound boy on Tuesday night, making the circumstances for the Lady Longhorns’ first home playoff game even more unconventional.

The game itself fit right along with the team’s entire season. The Lady Longhorns fell behind by five points early in the first quarter, seemingly unable to get clean looks through Central Gwinnett’s high zone defense. It wasn’t until half way through the second quarter did Lambert begin to find any sort of consistent offensive success, capturing a seven-point lead heading into halftime.

It was almost as if Lambert didn’t want to cruise to a comfortable win. Coming out of the half, the Lady Longhorns let a seven-point lead turn to two halfway through the third quarter, giving life to Central Gwinnett.

With life came the opportunity for the game to turn into complete chaos. With 4:15 left in the fourth quarter, Central Gwinnett regained the lead for the first time since the first quarter. Then it became a trade of blows. There were nine lead changes or ties from that time mark.

With less than a minute to play, Lambert was down two, and it was none other than their crazy defense that forced a turnover that eventually led to the possession that tied the game. Jaleah Greene spun left, drove the lane, and laid up the game-tying basket that sent it overtime tied 50-50.

Greene wasn’t done. A similar spin move gave Lambert the lead, and she extended the Lady Longhorns’ lead at the free throw line, giving Lambert a three-point lead.

“Coach [Carolyn] Whitney really wanted me to drive hard to the basket,” Greene said. “Whenever I saw that there was an open gap I just took it to the hoop.”

M.E. Craven was quiet all night due to foul trouble, but the region player of the year added her only three points of the game in overtime to seal the win.

“We have been winning big games all season,” said Whitney, who was filling in for Fisher. “They don’t quit.”