Greer Landry and Trevor Shipes played travel basketball together in the sixth grade. They won the seventh grade county championship together at South Forsyth Middle.
"I’ll never forget that," Shipes said.
Their paths split from there – Landry to South Forsyth High, Shipes to Buford.
Friday pulled them back together again on the same court, perhaps for the final time, Landry the War Eagles’ senior center, Shipes the Longhorns’ senior center after transferring from Buford last season. Except this time, Landry backed down Shipes in the paint for a tough lay-up or Shipes drew Landry from under the basket with a deft 15-foot jump shot.
Back and forth, back and forth, the two centers leading the ebb and flow of Lambert’s 64-49 victory in a Region 6-AAAAAA game at home.
"It was a great match-up," Lambert coach Scott Bracco said. "Both players did a great job scoring and rebounding and defending."
Shipes and the Longhorns (14-3, 8-0) eventually pulled away from Landry and the War Eagles (3-11, 2-6) to remain unbeaten in the region and defeat South for the fifth straight time, but the game within the game was down low.
The slight edge went to Shipes. The senior scored a game-high 19 points to go along with 10 rebounds and three blocks and provided Lambert with the spark it needed against its heated rival. Shipes scored the Longhorns’ first six points, eight of its first 10 and was effective in the post and stepping out to shoot mid-range jump shots.
Landry and South made Shipes’ work tougher in the second quarter, but that didn’t diminish his production. He ran the fast break for a lay-up, bullied his way for a short hook shot and made two put-back lay-ups to help Lambert take a 25-16 lead into the half.
"I’ve got to give credit to my good friend," Landry said, "because he played an incredible game."
Landry gave South the spark it needed at the start of the third quarter. He scored the War Eagles’ first six points and finished with a double-double of his own with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
"He’s a good guy," Shipes said. "Real strong."
But Shipes’ supporting cast was stronger. Though he spent stretches of the third quarter on the bench in foul trouble, the Longhorns managed to extend their lead to 39-25 after consecutive transition lay-ups from Joe Bates.
South cut the lead to 8 five times, the last at 54-46 with 2:51 left in the game, but the Longhorns’ depth was too much. While Joe Bates, Logan Bush and Tanner Hall were scoreless in the first half, they combined for 28 points in the second half. When Shipes sat out with foul trouble, Grant Lancaster stepped in to hit a 3-pointer and grab several key rebounds. Patrick Noble hit one of Lambert’s seven 3s.
"That’s what we’ve been hanging our hat on is our team depth," Bracco said. "Grant Lancaster was the guy who stepped up for us tonight. Great job on the defensive end and got a few key rebounds in the second half."