By Steven Watkins
For the Forsyth County News
With 19 seconds left in the final game of the regular season, Lambert senior Colin Granger leapt, grabbed and fought for what easily could be his most significant rebound of the game.
With next week’s region tournament looming, someone evidently had forgotten to tell the firmly two-seeded Longhorns or their Forsyth Central hosts, as a single point separated the region-rivals in the final seconds, for the second time this season.
Lambert’s first lead of the game didn’t come until midway through the fourth quarter, thanks both to breakneck intensity and pace from the Bulldogs and largely sloppy shooting by the Longhorns for the majority of the first three quarters.
That isn’t to say that Lambert came out flat in its final regular-season matchup. The Longhorns woke up quickly, matching Central’s pace for the majority of the game, with both teams diving for loose balls, showing tremendous hustle both defensively and on the counterattack, and both creating sporadic, self-induced turnovers as a result of pressing too hard, too quickly.
The entire game felt like the final seconds of a postseason quarter.
Yet with 19 seconds, for all of the missed shots and timely, Central turnovers, the Longhorns found themselves with a perfect chance to steal one last region win.
Granger leapt at a Central jump-shot that came inches short of swapping the lead, grabbed it with both hands, and came down with it — giving his team possession with the lead late and drawing a foul in the process.
Throughout the majority of the game — even trailing by 11 at the start of the fourth quarter — the second-seeded Longhorns had found just enough plays to keep them within striking distance, with a significant number of those resembling the final few that would cement the win for them: just enough hustle, in just the right place, at just the right time.
“I’m extremely proud of the way that we played in the fourth quarter,” Lambert head coach Scott Bracco said. “The guys never gave up. I love the atmosphere here, I love these gyms, and I believe next week is going to be a great week of basketball.”
The final horn made official Lambert’s 60-55 win, marking the second time in less than a month that they bested Central in the final possessions of the game, and yet another would-be win for the Bulldogs lost in the final seconds.
“I thought our guys competed and played their butts off,” Central head coach Brandon Hutchins said. “On senior night, to take one of the top-teams in this county to the wire and we had our chance to win — I just couldn’t be more proud of our guys.”
Despite sinking roughly 50 percent of their shots, the Bulldogs l finished the first quarter with a 13-10 lead, extending it to 29-24 by the half.
Lambert seemed married to outside shots early, the bulk of which failed to result in points throughout the majority of the game.
The Bulldogs ran effective offense within the paint early on, while also sinking a good number of threes, with junior Jake Craft and senior Brandon Sherer leading the team with two apiece.
Sherer also finished his final night of the season with 22 total points — the highest mark for either team.
Granger led the Longhorns in scoring with 18 points on the night, followed closely behind by junior Jackson Greene who finished with 17. Neither team shot particularly well from the free-throw line, both finishing at just over 50 percent.