Jake Morris was not a full-throttle passing canon four years ago in middle school, but that is what he has become for the Lambert boys’ basketball team. It was inevitable, really. The tempo of choice for Longhorns basketball is fast, so Morris converted.
“This entire offense changed my game,” Morris said.
Morris put it all on display in Lambert’s resounding 79-55 victory over Johns Creek in the Region 6-AAAAAA semifinals Monday at West Forsyth.
The Longhorns (22-5) advanced to their first-ever region championship Tuesday against Alpharetta at 8:30 p.m.
“We’re excited as a staff with the way the players have responded this season,” Lambert coach Scott Bracco said. “We set high expectations this season. I’m proud of the guys for buying into our system and developing the Longhorns culture.”
Part of that culture has been Lambert’s high-tempo offense that helped the Longhorns reach its first state tournament last season and pushed it to the top of the region this season.
“It’s our style,” Morris said.
Morris said it starts with a touch. Whether on a missed or made shot, the effectiveness of Lambert’s transition game depends on how fast Morris gets the ball. The quicker Morris gets it in his hands, the quicker Lambert is rushing up the court with players spread across. The secondary break – when Morris and the Longhorns cross half-court – is when Morris has a decision to make.
Morris said his decisions were easy against Johns Creek. Lambert had a decisive advantage in size in 6-foot-6 senior center Trevor Shipes, so Morris looked for him early and often. That’s how Shipes scored six of Lambert’s first 11 points.
Morris kicked out passes to Joe Bates (19 points) and Tanner Hall (10 points) for 3-pointers. He found Shipes (18 points, nine rebounds) cutting to the basket for lay-ups.
When Morris found Grant Lancaster cutting to the basket, Lancaster caught the pass, went up for a lay-up and was fouled. Lancaster made one of two free throws to give Lambert a 27-9 lead that the Longhorns never relinquished.
“We played really well,” Morris said. “I thought we punched them in the mouth in the first quarter.”
Morris finished with seven assists to go along with seven points and five rebounds. But it was Morris’ defense on Johns Creek senior point guard Peyton Smith that impressed Scott Bracco. Morris held Smith to just two points.
“For us to be successful, we have to really defend and attack on the defensive end,” Bracco said. “It creates a tempo. I thought Jake did a great job of defending their point guard, and I thought we played great team defense in the second half.”
The formula worked. The Longhorns hope it can work again against Alpharetta.
“It feels great,” Morris said. “We still have unfinished business. We have to beat Alpharetta for that region title.”