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Basketball: South girls ride fast start to rout Lambert, clinch playoff berth

South Forsyth’s Ashley Breindl knew her team needed to bring the energy in its first region tournament game against Lambert.

Her taped-up, injured left ring finger was always in the back of her mind, but in the first quarter against Lambert, Breindl may as well have forgotten about the pain. She notched two buckets and an assist in the game’s first few minutes to pace South from the start. 

As the first quarter buzzer sounded, Breindl and the War Eagles looked up at the scoreboard to see results of just about the best start anyone could ask for — an 18-0 lead heading into the second.

“It was shocking, but just what we wanted,” Breindl said. “It was great to see that -- everyone did great and put in the whole team effort.”

The game was essentially over from there. While the the War Eagles jumped out to their big lead, Lambert didn’t score its first points until the beginning of the second. The Longhorns’ struggles from the floor continued throughout the rest of the night, and South came away with a 55-22 win that felt even more lopsided than that.

With the victory, the War Eagles clinched a playoff spot and will now move on to the next round of the tournament, where they’ll match up with top-seeded North Forsyth. Lambert’s first season under head coach Chris Roy ends with an 8-18 overall record.

“It’s always tough to play somebody a third time,” South head coach Keith Gravitt said. “I was real happy with the way the girls came out at the beginning of the game, with a lot of energy. We were able to establish our enthusiasm right from the beginning, and I think that has a lot to do with it.”

While South’s girls were excited, Lambert’s were just trying to regroup. South’s press was working effectively, and the Longhorns’ shooting suffered.

“I told the girls, 'Don't look at the scoreboard," Roy said. "'We've just got to play one possession at a time.' There was a lot of basketball left to play.”

When the second quarter began, the Longhorns began to show signs of life, if only for a moment. Lambert almost cut the South lead in half with a 7-0 run, with shots from Anna Jackson and Ansley Dean cutting the score to 18-7 before the War Eagles called a timeout to collect themselves with 5:15 left until halftime.

“I thought they did a good job coming out in the beginning of the second quarter and getting the run,” Roy said. “We had a couple of opportunities to get even closer.”

That run ended up accounting for all of Lambert’s first half points, though. South led 33-7 at the break, and throughout the rest of the game, the Longhorns’ shooting never got much better. Lambert cracked double digits with 3:32 left in the third, with South leading 43-11 at that point.

South’s next task will be a tall one — defeating the Raiders, a squad that didn’t lose a region game throughout its entire regular season slate. The first step of many will be to capture the same kind of energy that catapulted them on Tuesday.

“We have to believe in ourselves because they got the best of us twice,” Breindl said. “We have to go out there with confidence with a good start, not let them get easy buckets, don’t let them get us out of our game and keep pushing forward.”