SUWANEE – After falling into a three-goal deficit in the first quarter, there was a period of almost 10 minutes when it felt like North Gwinnett could turn the tide and eventually beat Lambert in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state tournament.
Though the Longhorns controlled possession through much of that frame, they simply couldn’t find the back of the net and were visibly frustrated. There was a sense that, if the Bulldogs could get the next goal, the momentum could quickly turn the other way.
As the first half entered its final minute, it appeared as if North Gwinnett would head into intermission with a surmountable deficit on its hands. Then, quickly, the Bulldogs fell apart.
Lambert middie Nick Shumate fired a shot into the net with 51 seconds left, junior Jake Stanford followed that up with a goal of his own 36 ticks later, and senior attack Sean Carruthers scored the back-breaker with just six seconds remaining before the horn.
The onslaught killed any momentum North Gwinnett’s defense built up and allowed Lambert to cruise to an 11-3 victory.
Lambert will return to action Friday when they travel to play Harrison, a 12-8 winner over Lassiter, in the quarterfinals.
“It was definitely a good bounce for us,” Carruthers said of the second quarter surge that pushed Lambert’s lead from 5-2 to 8-2. “It got us back where we needed to be to give us a comfortable lead. That helped a lot to be up by a little bit more in the second half.”
“I think we played a solid game,” said head coach Rich Wehman. “We knew it’d be a hard-fought game, as they always are in the playoffs. We have things we have to work on, but it was a good performance for us.”
Lambert got its 11 goals from 11 different players—a testament to the depth of this roster. Such a result is part of Wehman’s game plan.
“We run the kind of offense when people are doubling the guy with the ball, we try to move it to the other side of the field,” he explained. “So having lots of goal scorers is something we want.”
Lambert’s defense wasn’t tested much by North Gwinnett, but it came up big when necessary. The Bulldogs were rarely given space near the net to generate high-quality shots and didn’t get many second chance opportunities.
Netminder Garret Gomez made several crucial stops and, along with his teammates, was able to create some fast breakouts during transition. Not only did this lead to more scoring, but it prevented North Gwinnett from getting into an offensive rhythm of its own.
“Garret’s saves let our defense take a break and slows things down on our side of the field,” Alexander said. “It let us play our own type of game. He’s been coming up huge for us.”