Top-seeded Lambert avoided a scare Thursday, holding on for a 61-55 win over county rival West Forsyth in the night-cap of the quarterfinals at the Region 6-AAAAAA tournament and earning an automatic berth in the state championships.
West, which entered the contest as the No. 9 seed in the tournament, entered the game seven weeks removed from a 90-35 loss to the Longhorns, and two weeks from a 74-46 defeat on the same floor they played on Thursday night.
To say that the Wolverines might have walked off the floor as the happier team wouldn't be far fetched. After falling behind 10-0, the underdogs made it a 28-24 halftime deficit and trailed just 45-42 after three quarters. They even trailed by only a basket midway through the fourth, but the Longhorns pulled away to a 61-49 lead in the waning moments.
Lambert head coach Scott Bracco complimented his counterpart, Jake Dickey, after the tight contest.
“I think Jake put together a great gameplan against us tonight,” Bracco said. “He's done a great job this year, really, and those boys really responded to him tonight.”
“We had been talking all week about how we had nothing to lose, and we decided to be the guys that didn't back down from anybody,” Dickey said. “We had won our last two games, so we gave them our best shot and earned their respect, we feel like. Maybe a few more shots go down and we're on the other side of it.”
While all of West's players were visibly more loose and confident, its first man off the bench, Joseph Freites, headlined the surprise performance. He managed to score 15 points, including three 3-pointers.
Lambert's David Viti was hot early, knocking down two treys in a starting role in the opening scoring barrage. Viti finished with 12 points, while Connor Mannion woke from an early scoring slump to charge away with 14 points and six rebounds, while Ross Morkem added 14 points and five boards.
Matt Ganote helped Lambert fend off runs with aggressive steals, finishing with five, while Lambert point guard Andrew Melms scored just 5 but had seven assists.
West also got strong performances from Isaiah Magee, who dished five assists on top of 7 points, and his brother, Jay, who scored 8 and was active in the paint against Lambert's bigs.
Heading into a contest today with Alpharetta, Bracco thinks his team's only fix will be to settle down.
“I think tonight we just came in a little overhyped. We just need to calm things down and we'll be fine,” he said.
Lambert will face Alpharetta in the semifinals tonight at 8:30 p.m.