At halftime, Lambert thought it had figured Jenna Staiti out. The Lady Longhorns erased a 16-4 deficit and stormed to a 24-20 lead over West Forsyth at intermission, thanks to scrappy defense against Staiti and the shooting threat of Shayna Lawrence, which pulled Staiti out of the paint and opened the middle enough for others to score.
That all changed in the third, when Staiti—the 6-foot-5 center—started draining 3-pointers. She hit all four of her attempts in the second half, finishing with 40 total points, while Jane Ortlip knocked down three shots from deep on her own, and West managed to storm to a 62-46 victory Friday on Lambert's senior night.
“Jenna is a good shooter. That's what makes her so unique and such a tough guard,” West head coach David May said of his senior. “She did a really good job of getting her feet set and stepping into her shot, and when she does that it has a very good chance of going in.”
No. 10-ranked West (18-4, 15-1) managed to avoid a result similar to last year, when Lambert got away with a win late in the season that propelled them down the stretch. Lambert head coach Jaime Fisher felt like her team had a better shot than anyone at beating West on Friday, and despite the result still is pleased with her team's progress heading toward postseason play.
“You have to go into every game believing you can win, regardless of who you are playing,” Fisher said. “West is tough, but we feel like we can match up with them, with our size. We did as much as we can, but (Staiti) is a Division I athlete. She makes everyone around her better.
“We're finally having some depth. At this point in the season you've got to have more players stepping up.”
M.E. Craven scored 18 points to lead Lambert's scorers, while Lawrence chipped in nine points. Staiti made 13 of the team's 20 field goals, while also adding five blocks. Ortlip finished with 11 points.
Lambert boys 74, West 46
After every game through region play, Scott Bracco has lost more words to describe his team's play. That's a good thing.
The Longhorns are now 21-2, 16-0 in Region 6-AAAAAA action and showcasing tons of depth in recent weeks. On senior night, Bracco made sure to highlight some elder team members who made plays early and often.
“Joe Duffy and Carter Augustine, I was really proud of them tonight,” Bracco made sure to point out right away. Augustine hit three 3-pointers, while Duffy knocked in two field goals. Lambert had 11 scorers on the evening, led by Connor Mannion's 23 points.
Mannion's highlight of the night was when Andrew Melms threw an alley-oop off the glass on a runaway. Mannion had two other crowd-pleasing dunks, while Ross Morkem had a throw down of his own.
Countless contributions were made across the board, including a moment when Matt Ganote assisted his younger brother, Mitch, for a 3-pointer that prompted an eruption of Lambert's bench.
“Tonight was a great win. I'm very proud of the seniors. It was a special night for them,” Bracco said.
West did not have a scorer eclipse 10 points, but head coach Jake Dickey saw a drastic improvement in effort from the first time the teams met earlier in the year.
“I think, compared to the last time we played them, it was a 100 percent difference,” he said. “I was proud of the effort tonight. We matched them in that category, but we just couldn't get our shots to fall.”