JOHNS CREEK — The Lambert Lady Longhorns are growing up.
With a spot in the state tournament on the line Tuesday evening, Centennial jumped all over Lambert, forcing 10 first-quarter turnovers, and Jaimie Fisher’s team could’ve wilted on the spot.
They could have capitulated to one of the Lady Knights’ continuous fourth-quarter surges, but Lambert, by now accustomed to games played on a knife’s edge, did just enough to close out a 51-48 win in the Region 6-AAAAAA tournament quarterfinals.
Lambert, after a one-year hiatus, clinched a berth in the state tournament in Fisher’s first season at the helm. The Lady Longhorns will take on South Forsyth in the semifinals at 7 p.m. on Friday at Chattahoochee.
“We’ve been in so many close games this year, we’re so used to it,” Fisher said. “It’s almost like when we’re not in that situation, it’s weird. I want the expectation here to be to get to the playoffs, and I’m very glad we were able to do that in my first year.”
Kara Kidwell scored a team-high 22 for Lambert on three three-pointers. The sophomore guard had 12 points after halftime, including a deep ball from the wing in the fourth quarter that gave the Lady Longhorns a nine-point lead, their largest of the game.
Leah Cote added 10 points, all in the first half, and Molly Williams added nine. Williams’ two free throws with 8.1 seconds remaining provided the final margin.
Kidwell and Cote got Lambert going after the sophomore-laden team fell behind 9-2 in the early stages. Centennial couldn’t push their lead any larger than seven and paid for it. Lambert quickly shrunk the gap early in the second quarter, eventually taking the lead on a Kidwell layup.
“We needed one of our best games of the season,” Fisher said. “Kara Kidwell really stepped to the front today. When we needed a spark, when we needed a shot, she was there. When her and Leah Cote started hitting shots, that got the ball rolling for us.”
Lambert shot just 6-for-18 from the foul line in the final quarter, helping the Lady Knights remain within striking distance, but the Lady Longhorns got the requisite late stops — and enough hard-fought defensive rebounds — to win.
“These things take time, and that’s what I’ve been telling them all year, especially when we were losing all these close games,” Fisher said. “Now, we’re winning them and they’re really starting to put it all together. We still have a ton of work to do, but, hey, we’re going to the playoffs.”
Lambert girls 51, Centennial 48
Lambert 7 18 7 19_51
Centennial 9 11 6 22_48
Lambert: Kidwell 22; Cote 10; Williams 9; Russell 4; Baker 2; Johnson 2; Rumer 2.
Centennial: Holloway 22; Moede 17.