Alpharetta boys 76, Lambert 71
Alpharetta 23 19 13 21_76
Lambert 22 18 8 23_71
Alpharetta – Eze 5, Jones 11, Maduka 5, Gamble 20, Cacok 20, Thomas 2, Winston 4, James 7, Carriere 2.
Lambert – Melms 0, Hall 14, Morris, 13, Morkem 15, Mannion 8, Noble 6, Lancaster 10, Gatlin 5.
3-Point Goals – Alpharetta 1, Lambert 3. Fouled Out – Alpharetta 2 (Eze, Thomas), Lambert 2 (Melms, Morkem). Rebounds – Alpharetta 38 (Cacok 15), Lambert 26 (Mannion 5). Total Fouls – Alpharetta 30, Lambert 20.
The ball spun around and around and around the rim but Alpharetta was already celebrating as if it was in, as if there wasn’t still 3 minutes 9 seconds left in the most anticipated Region 6-AAAAAA game of the young season, as if the Raiders knew this moment here settled things against the Lambert Longhorns.
Alpharetta senior Jaylon Gamble had slashed into the lane and gotten fouled on a lay-up. The ball rolled around the rim once, twice, three times, four, who could keep count? Gamble’s teammates were already mobbing him under the basket before the ball fell through the net. Alpharetta’s bench was already erupting in fervor before Gamble made the ensuing free throw.
Until then, Lambert had responded every time its situation teetered on the edge. No more. The Longhorns ran out of time to find answers in a 76-71 loss Friday at home.
"I knew Alpharetta was going to come in here and play tough," Lambert head coach Scott Bracco said. "Over the past three years that I’ve been here, it’s been a dog fight every game. We didn’t expect anything less than that tonight.
"I thought we played hard. I thought that we stuck to the things that we needed to do to be successful but shot very poorly from the free-throw line."
Indeed, the Longhorns (7-2, 4-1) held the edge at the free-throw line going 30-for-47 (63.8 percent) compared to 14-for-24 (58.3 percent) for Alpharetta.
But Bracco saw in those 17 missed free throws a missed opportunity.
"We could’ve won this game, honestly," said junior Ross Morkem, who led Lambert with 15 points. "We need to work on those in practice a little more and concentrate and focus."
The game was a rematch from last season’s region championship that Alpharetta won 75-65 in overtime, and so Friday was billed as an early-season gauge for the two teams. Both entered playing like the class of the region again.
Bracco said Lambert left last season’s gut-wrenching loss in the region championship in the past. The Longhorns’ largely revamped roster made that easier. Lambert started just one senior Friday and two returning starters from last season.
Alpharetta meanwhile started four seniors, including University of North Carolina-Wilmington signee and forward Davontae Cacok.
If Alpharetta’s experience was an advantage, it was only a slight one. There were six ties from the second quarter on. Lambert’s largest deficit was nine when Cacok made a put-back layup to put Alpharetta up 55-46 with under a minute left in the third quarter, but Lambert chipped away.
Connor Mannion made a baseline jumper at the buzzer to end the third quarter. Grant Lancaster had six of his 10 points during the Longhorns’ 13-4 run that Morkem finished off with two free throws to tie the game at 59-59 with 4:04 left.
At that point, Cacok re-entered after sitting on the bench for a minute after collecting his fourth foul. He promptly gave Alpharetta the lead back, then minutes later followed Gamble’s swirling three-point play with a reverse layup that drew Morkem’s fifth foul.
Cacok’s and Gamble’s size and activeness underneath caused fits for Lambert all night. Cacok had 20 points and 14 rebounds. Gamble added 20 points and three rebounds. They had three blocks and altered several other shots. They controlled the boards, helping Alpharetta hold a 38-26 rebounding advantage over Lambert.
"They had a huge impact on the game," Bracco said. "They dominated the boards. For them to be successful those guys have to rebound the ball."
It left Lambert plenty to remember when the teams meet again Jan. 23 at Alpharetta.
"We played our hearts out, tried our best, but it didn’t come out in our favor," Morkem said.
Alpharetta girls 53, Lambert girls 43: The Lady Longhorns couldn’t thwart a hot-shooting Lady Raiders team in a Region 6-AAAAAA loss Friday at home.
Lambert (4-5, 1-4) stayed painstakingly close throughout the game. It trailed 14-12 after the first quarter, 25-22 at halftime and 36-31 after the third quarter.
But the Lady Longhorns didn’t have the shooting touch like Alpharetta on Friday. The Lady Raiders drained eight 3-pointers, including three each from guards Asia Gill (15 points, five assists, five steals) and Nebrina Harton (11 points). Even Alpharetta center Teja Finley (12 points, 10 rebounds) hit a 3 in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, the Lady Raiders shot better at the free-throw line (17 of 28) than Lambert (8 of 18).
Molly Williams led the Lady Longhorns with 12 points to go along with seven rebounds. Kara Kidwell had 10 points and eight rebounds, Leah Cote had nine points while Ashley Johnson had seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.