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Basketball: West enacts region tourney revenge over Lambert to reach region finals
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West Forsyth's Nick Zabetakis celebrates after the Wolverines beat Lambert in the semifinals of the Region 5-7A boys basketball tournament on Feb. 6, 2019 at North Forsyth High School. - photo by Ian Frazer

By MacKenzie Bates

For the Forsyth County News

West Forsyth’s first-ever appearance in the Region 5-7A title didn’t go the way it wanted a year ago.

But in Wednesday's region semifinal matchup against Lambert, the team that stonewalled the Wolverines a year ago, West changed the script, winning 80-71 and clinching a first-round hosting gig in the state playoffs.

“I’m so proud of our guys,” head coach Frederick Hurt said. “Different guys stepped up and we had everybody on the same page of what we were trying to do.”

The Wolverines (13-14) got 24 points from sophomore Broc Bidwell, who helped set the offensive rhythm early. He scored five points as part of a 13-4 lead to start the game.

“We started rolling pretty fast as soon as the game tipped off,” Bidwell said. “As a team, we were able to execute our plays to the best of our abilities that ultimately led to success.”

Lambert immediately erased the deficit with a 9-0 run in just under two minutes. 

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West Forsyth's Tyler Lane drives towards the hoop during the Wolverines' region tournament semifinal game against Lambert on Feb. 6, 2019 at North Forsyth High School. - photo by Ian Frazer
The Wolverines took over defensively in the second quarter, limiting the Longhorns to just 2-of-13 from the field. Bidwell’s fadeaway jumper before the first half horn gave West a 33-21 lead going in to halftime.

The lead ballooned to 20 points midway through the third quarter on a Jack Bock 3-point basket to lead Lambert 45-25. 

The Longhorns (20-6) would start chipping away at the lead, cutting it to 12 points late in the third quarter.  Lambert only got within eight points on a Will Baker three-point basket with less than a minute to go.  

“We didn’t make enough shots early,” Longhorns head coach Scott Bracco said about having to play from behind most of the game. “We missed some good looks which turned in to some easy layups on the other end. At this time of the year, you’ve got to make shots and we didn’t do much of that in the first half.”

The Wolverines were 25-of-49 (51 percent) from the field, including 12-for-19 (63 percent) in the second half.  In addition to Bidwell’s offensive efficiency, Nick Zabetakis scored 14 points and Brock chipped in with 13 points. 

Lambert shot 51 percent on the court (27-for-53) and 20-of-31 (64 percent) in the second half.

Mitch Ganote led all scorers with 28 points, with 26 of them coming in the second half.

“Mitch played outstanding,” Bracco said. “He always wants to put us on his shoulders and try to win every game.”

Colin Granger added 17 points for Lambert. 

Hurt credited his team for staying composed when the Longhorns were trying to make a game of it.

“That was big because we knew they were going to make a run,” Hurt said. “They’ve got too many guys that can score. Their press is effective even though we’re much better against their press than we used to be. It was just a matter of us making free throws and handling things and we did just enough.”

The Wolverines get their second-ever home game in the state playoffs after Friday’s title game, when they'll take on the winner of Forsyth Central and Milton.

“We’re going to have to prepare a lot more than we did last year,” Bidwell said. “Last year, we were just excited to be there. This year, we’re not done yet. We have a better mindset and hopefully we’ll make the most of it on Friday night.”

Lambert will have a few days before finding out who and where they will play in next week’s state playoffs. The Longhorns are set to face Central or Milton in the region third-place game on Friday.