By David Purdum / For the AJC
No. 1 North Gwinnett looked every bit like the team to beat in a thorough 67-30 rout of over-matched Lambert, Tuesday in a AAAAAA state tournament opener in Suwanee.
Lexie Brown became North Gwinnett’s all-time leading scorer with a steal and layup that put the Bulldogs up 54-20 early in the fourth quarter. A Maryland signee, Brown finished with 15 and now has 1,518 points in her high school career.
But Brown is just one of a bevy of next-level talents for coach Bryan Sellars’ squad, which led 10-0 two minutes into the game and never looked back. North Gwinnett (26-1) missed just three shots in the first quarter and took a 40-13 lead into halftime.
Guard Joshlyn Belcher had a game-high 17 points, including three first-quarter 3-pointers that had Lambert playing catch-up the entire game. Penn State-signee Peyton Whitted owned the paint and finished with 15, and diminutive spark-plug guard Baylee Rexin added 10.
The Bulldogs will host the Archer-Etowah winner at 7 p.m., Friday, according to Sellars.
North Gwinnett scored the first 10 points and never looked back, overwhelming coach Seth Thompson’s young Lambert squad, which battled through numerous injuries and inexperience to reach the state tournament for the second straight season.
North Gwinnett (26-1) advances to face the Archer-Etowah winner on Friday or Saturday.
Thompson tried to stem the early barrage, but the Longhorns (10-18) struggled mightily with the Bulldogs’ athleticism.
“They are without a doubt the best team we played against this season and probably the best team I’ve ever coach against,” said Thompson.
Morgan Jackson led Lambert with 15 points, most coming from behind the arc. The Longhorns got very few looks inside the paint against the North Gwinnett front court that comes at you in waves of tall athletic players.
A McDonald’s All-American, Brown got any shot she wanted and displayed an array of step-back jumpers and cross-over drives to the basket. Her defense was just as good. Lambert’s guards simply couldn’t get around her, and turnovers ensued.
Sellars said after the game that his team was already turning its focus to the second round.
“Our focus is winning our last game,” said Sellars. “That’s what it’s been about all season and really since we lost (in the playoffs) to Hillgrove last year.”
North Gwinnett’s only loss came at Norcross late in the season. The Bulldogs wouldn’t meet their region rival again until the state championship game.
North Gwinnett 67, Lambert 30
North Gwinnett: Belcher 17, Brown 15, Whitted 14, Baylee Rexin 10, Emily Toomer 4, Stephanie Amichia 3, Keniesha Wilborn 2, Alyssa Munly 12. Lambert: Morgan Jackson 15, Corrie Baker 6, Peyton Card 4, Ellie Hammer 3.
Haftime: North Gwinnett 40-13