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Lambert boys fend off North in region win
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Lambert had to fend off a pesky North Forsyth boys team for a 65-53 win Wednesday at Raider Arena. - photo by Brian Paglia

Neither coach wanted reasons to be mistaken for excuses.

Not Lambert’s Scott Bracco, who wouldn’t let the weather’s unpredictable grip on the school schedule explain away the Longhorns’ inconsistent play Wednesday.

Or North Forsyth’s Brian Moon, who didn’t want a basketball culture under construction to explain away another valiant effort that wasn’t enough.

Yet, both offered valid insight into the Longhorns’ 65-53 victory over the Raiders in a Region 6-AAAAAA game at Raider Arena.

Lambert (10-3, 5-0) displayed its balanced and efficient self only in key spurts. North (0-16, 0-5) matched the Longhorns’ effort as long as it could until it couldn’t match Lambert’s advantages in talent and depth any longer.

The result was the status quo. Lambert remained atop the region, while the Raiders were left still searching for their first win.

"The last three days have been crazy with school being cancelled," Bracco said. "But we’re not making any excuses."

"A lot of our problems now may have stemmed from things that went on years ago, just the foundation not being where it needs to be," Moon said. "It sounds like excuses, but I really think that’s the truth."

Lambert was successful by exerting its superiority in key spurts.

When North’s Rome Bailey scored his sixth straight point to pull the Raiders within 23-22 late in the second quarter, the Longhorns promptly went on a 12-0 run that stretched into the third quarter for a 35-22 lead.

When North cut the lead to seven with a minute left in the third quarter, Lambert used an 11-1 run to take a 50-33 lead, its largest of the game.

And when North’s Cody Gottberg (16 points) made a tough lay-up to trim Lambert’s lead to 58-51 late in the fourth, Logan Bush (12 points, 11 rebounds) made two free throws and Jake Morris converted a three-point play to seal the game.

Tanner Hall led Lambert with 18 points to go along with eight rebounds, while Tanner Shipes added a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Nick Cunningham had 16 points for North.

"I was a little disappointed in the effort that we put out on the floor tonight," Bracco said. "We weren’t focused and we didn’t play with the energy that we normally play with."

The late-game scenario belied the disparity between Lambert’s and North’s résumés going into the game. The Longhorns were the only unbeaten team in region play with one of the most balanced rosters in the county that features five players averaging double figures in scoring. North meanwhile had a pattern of keeping games close with more talented teams but falling short.

So it unfolded Friday night, with Lambert dipping into its deep bench early and often. Eleven players got time on the court. Eight players scored. The Longhorns forced North into 13 turnovers, including on four straight Raiders possessions to start the third quarter. They slashed to the basket or fed Shipes in the post when jumpshots stopped falling in the second quarter, a formula that put Lambert at the line often where it went 23-for-32 (72 percent), including 11-for-13 in the fourth quarter.

"We did a good job of making our free throws down the stretch," Bracco said. "We didn’t shoot a good percentage the rest of the game, but our guys did a good job of closing out the rest of the game."

And North kept it close, whether it was Gottberg’s six first-quarter points, Bailey’s six second-quarter points, Cunningham’s three 3-pointers and an array of back-door lay-ups.

"I thought our effort was good," Moon said. "Our kids played hard."