When senior point guard Andrew Melms walked off the court Saturday night—his second straight region championship, inevitable—he received a hug from every coach and player on Lambert's bench.
It took a while for him to get to the final embrace.
Almost perfectly, that moment identified Lambert's season: They have strong leadership, well liked seniors, and a really deep bench.
Unlike their first two meetings with Johns Creek, which were both decided by less than 11 points, Lambert rolled in the Region 6-AAAAAA title game at home, in front of a capacity crowd, with a 71-50 win to clinch a No. 1 seed in the state playoffs, which will begin next week.
None of that is too surprising. The Longhorns entered the season with goals of winning a region title and making a deep run in the Class AAAAAA state playoffs, but they managed to get through their entire region schedule and region tournament without suffering a single loss against a region opponent.
For it to not even be close, on the biggest stage, you'd think head coach Scott Bracco would have been surprised. He wasn't.
“Our goal is to win every game we play,” Bracco said. “We put hard work into every practice, the guys believe in eachother, and I'm just super proud of him.”
Melms, Connor Mannion and Ross Morkem walked off the floor full of energy and celebration. Melms had just had arguably the best scoring night of the year—for himself, anyway. Often an assist machine, he managed to score 19 points and even knock down three straight 3-pointers, making a handful of shots by creating his own looks. It was a new look for Melms, but when asked about his night, he decided to talk about rebounding. Why not?
“Matt Ganote was flying around, getting boards...Connor, he's always out there making me look good. It was just a huge team effort,” Melms said.
Mannion scored 30 points and snagged 10 rebounds, while Morkem had 12 points and eight rebounds of his own. Melms still managed to dish seven assists, while senior Caleb Kassa came off the bench to have three timely assists as well.
Lambert led 20-14 at the end of the first, but opened its lead to 44-21 at halftime. Johns Creek was hampered when a key player, Ian Joseph, was ejected after a hard foul on Morkem with less than a minute left in the first half. The ensuing complaints from Gladiators' coach Pete Goggin to the officials earned another tech, giving Lambert four free throws.
Lambert then took a 59-39 lead into the fourth, where most of its backups played the rest of the way. Carter Augustine knocked down a 3-pointer after a pretty assists from Harrison White to get the Lambert bench to its feet.
After the game, Bracco and Goggin were named the Region 6-AAAAAA co-coaches of the year, while Mannion, Melms and Morkem were named all-region. Mannion was also honored as the region's player of the year.