By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Basketball: Longhorns top Warriors to clinch Sweet 16 berth
Lambert's Mackenzie Weyer prepares to shoot a 3-pointer against North Cobb during a Class 7A state tournament first-round matchup Wednesday at home. (Photo by Nicholas Sullivan)

In their first playoff appearance since 2018, the Lambert girls played like seasoned veterans in taking down North Cobb to reach the second round of the Class 7A state tournament.

The Longhorns never trailed and led by double-digits nearly the entire second half in securing a spot in the Sweet 16 with a 52-38 triumph.

“I’m super excited for our four seniors,” Lambert head coach Brian Moon said. “Three of them went through our middle school. They had 3-4 wins as seventh- and eight-graders combined. I’m probably more excited for them than anybody.

“I’m excited for our program. Two years ago, we had three wins. There’s been a lot of work by kids and by coaches that have helped get us there. I’m excited for where we are.”

As Moon noted, the Longhorns took their lumps for a couple of years following back-to-back strong seasons from 2016-18. The latter of those included Lambert's last playoff win and appearance, while the 2016-17 campaign featured the program's most recent trip to the state quarterfinals.

After finishing as Region 6-7A runner-up, the Longhorns (21-7) earned the right to host in the opening round against the third-seeded Warriors (15-14). The matchup featured contrasting styles, as Lambert typically plays up-and-down, high-scoring games and North Cobb prefers a methodical, grind-it-out style.

The Warriors successfully slowed down the Longhorns, but the Lambert defense stepped up to the challenge of defending a long, athletic team, which admittedly struggled to convert several quality looks in the paint.

While North Cobb closed off the interior in the first half, Lambert's Annarose Tyre and Briley Elder were a two-person wrecking crew on the perimeter.

Tyre knocked down four 3-pointers and poured in 15 points before halftime. Meanwhile, Elder posted 11 points, including a pair of treys, to help the Longhorns enter the break with a 30-22 advantage.

“I thought North Cobb defended really good,” Moon said. “I thought they were one of the best defensive teams we played all year. They are super long. They switch all your screens, so there’s not a lot of holes for you to get through.

“Luckily, we made some shots from the perimeter. That helped us. Annarose came out super hot. … When she’s playing good, we’re usually playing pretty good.”

Elder cooled off a bit in the second half, finishing with 13 points. Tyre similarly didn't make any long-range shots over the final two periods but did chip in six points to wind up with a game-high 21.

Instead, the rest of the Lambert offense began to step up — especially Anna Rodriguez, who dropped home seven of her nine points after the interval.

Half of the Longhorns' second-half points came from the foul line. While it certainly helped pad the lead, Moon felt slightly disappointed in the team's 13-for-21 showing at the charity stripe.

“We got to the free throw line a little bit,” he said. “We got some baskets from them at the free throw line, but that’s one thing we didn’t do well tonight is leave a lot of shots at the free throw line. Usually, we shoot about 80% from the line. It’s usually pretty consistent for us.”

Lambert led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter, but North Cobb made a strong push late in the period and early in the final stanza to get within 12 points. In the end, a few key rebounds helped the Longhorns thwart the Warriors' comeback bid.

“Anna had some big offensive rebounds,” Moon said. “Mackenzie Weyer rebounded well on the defensive end. She was probably giving up 4-5 inches, but I thought she battled really well down there.”

It's no secret that Lambert will likely need a little more offensive firepower to knock off top-seeded and No. 2 ranked Norcross (26-2) Feb. 25 in Gwinnett County. But the Longhorns showed Wednesday that they have the ability to lock in defensively and, more importantly, play without fear during the players' first taste of the state playoffs.

“We played them this summer and competed against them pretty well,” Moon said of Norcross. “We’re going to go in there not afraid. Hopefully, the best thing will happen for us and we’ll come out of there with a win.”