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Basketball: North Forsyth boys earn first-ever win over Lambert
North Forsyth sophomore Brayden Turner attempts a 3-pointer over Lambert junior Sriram Budim during Thursday's 79-75 win. - photo by David Roberts

This season's North Forsyth boys basketball team can say something none of their predecessors can.

The Raiders have beaten the Longhorns.

North outlasted Lambert on Thursday, winning 79-75 to become the school's first boys basketball team to beat the Longhorns.

"It's huge, especially coming off those tough losses that we know we should have won," North senior Aidan Kudlas said. "We've lost several region games at this point by one possession. I've been saying since I was literally in middle school, 'I want to beat Lambert. I want to beat Lambert.' Never beat them. Today's the day, and it feels really good."

It's only fitting that Kudlas found himself with the ball in his hands late in the game.

Kudlas knocked down a free throw with 3.3 seconds remaining to extend North's lead to four points, guaranteeing the victory. 

The free throw came moments after Lambert had a chance to force overtime.

With 0:08 left on the clock and the Longhorns trailing 78-75, James Tyre found Keenan Gagen wrapping around the wing and into the corner. 

Gagen already had seven 3-pointers on the night and led the Longhorns with 35 points. Everybody in the building knew the inbounds pass was going to Gagen, including Cole Kirouac, who extended his left arm and deflected the shot, allowing Kudlas to collect the rebound and draw the foul.

"Well, we told them to switch everything," North head coach David Sokol said. "We knew they had to shoot a three, and we were fortunate to be out there to contest the shot."

The play was similar to Gagen's last-second corner three from last week's 68-67 win over Denmark.

North grabbed the lead at the end of the first quarter after Braden Mullis knocked down a 3-pointer to make it a 20-19 game. Cole Kirouac established himself in the post early against a Lambert team that was playing without power forward Thomas Sinning, collecting four early rebounds and a putback.

Gagen had nine first-quarter points on a trio of 3-pointers to lead the Longhorns.

Brayden Turner came off the bench in the second quarter for North, bringing some energy to the floor with a couple of 3-pointers and a big block. 

North closed the half on a 19-5 run that began with Turner's first three and ended with Mullis beating the buzzer again.

Kirouac really began asserting himself in the third quarter, backing down Jake Johnson in the post for a layup, then collecting a thunderous block that Kal-el Delgadillo scooped up and took down the court for an easy layup to extend North's lead to 47-33.

"Well, we try to do that all the time with him," Sokol said of Kirouac. "We feel like we've got an advantage because of his height. He needs to eat some more PB&Js to get stronger, and that'll help the inside. In the second half, he took it to the rim hard and played good defense. He's getting better. He's a good player."

But Gagen's theatrics never allowed the Raiders to pull away entirely. His fourth 3-pointer of the game made it 58-43 with 2:46 left in the third quarter. 

Gagen followed that up with an unbelievable and-one play, somehow getting the layup to fall as he tumbled toward the ground while collecting the foul. Gagen sank the free throw, then put up another 3-pointer one minute later to cut the deficit to 61-49.

A couple of buckets by Kirouac and Will Sokol created some separation, but Gagen knocked down his sixth 3-pointer of the game in response. 

Lambert peeled off a 7-0 run that left the score 71-65 with 3:45 left in the game, and after Delgadillo fouled out and Kudlas briefly left the game with a cramp, the Longhorns had plenty of momentum. 

"We didn't play that many guys, so I'm sure our guys were sucking wind," David Sokol said. "It was good to see them battle the whole night. I'm proud of our guys."

North managed just one field goal the rest of the game, which came when Kirouac laid the ball in, then raced back down the court to collect another block on defense. 

But Kirouac drew a shooting foul on the ensuing possession, knocking down one free throw, the first of four free throws by North down the stretch.

Mullis led the Raiders with 21 points and Sokol added 17 points.

North set a season record for points scored in the win. The Raiders also have region wins against Forsyth Central and Denmark, and have lost one-possession games to first-place West Forsyth and South Forsyth.

 "Consistency is what we're looking for," Sokol said. "We've played great at times. Other times we haven't, so I'm trying to figure out if that's a focus issue or a confidence issue. Of course, this helps coming over here and beating a great program with great players. I think they're the best offensive team in the region. It's hard to contain them. We knew we had to score, and luckily we made some shots."

North [9-10, 3-4 Region 6-7A] will travel to Alpharetta at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

The loss snaps a seven-game winning streak for Lambert [13-8, 5-3 Region 6-7A], which will travel to West Forsyth Jan. 28.