But it took a tremendous offensive effort -- 23 points for Lambert against 8 for the home team -- in the game's final quarter for the Longhorns to overtake state No. 6-ranked Woodland on Saturday and hang the season's first loss on the Wildcats, 50-47.
"We had a defensive lapse in the fourth quarter and sort of had a lid on the basket when we were shooting. We had some good looks. They did a good job of attacking the basket," head coach Mike Tobin said. "I thought they were a little more physical and played with a little more intensity than we did in the second half."
The Wildcats (18-1, 8-1 in Region 7-AAAA) had taken a 14-point lead in the first half, going up 30-16, against Lambert and then let the Longhorns narrow the gap between the two teams by a bucket in the third quarter but still enjoyed a 39-27 differential going into the final quarter.
Then the Longhorns began lighting up the scoreboard, with most of the damage done through their inside game, as Lambert hit just two treys in the final period.
Corey Tobin led the Wildcats in scoring, with 15 points, joined by Greg Murphy, with 9. Among the other Wildcat scorers were Brandon Thompson and Xavier Niblet, 6 points each; Chandler Royal, 5 points; and R.J. Williams, 4 points.
"They got a couple of baskets, cut the lead to 8 points and then we battled the rest of the way," coach Tobin said.
He said the Wildcats now must turn their attention to improving the rest of the season.
"It's much more fun winning, but we'd much rather lose now than in the tournament," Tobin said. "Hopefully we can get back to work on Monday."
Woodland began the evening half a game behind with Chattahoochee, which entered the evening with an 8-0 region record and ranked No. 4 in the state in the coaches poll.
The Wildcats next play Tuesday, when they visit the Rome Wolves.
Woodland 66, Sequoyah 60
Woodland trailed by nine points with four minutes remaining and found a way to win Friday night against Sequoyah, 66-60.
The Wildcats scored 28 points in the fourth quarter to overtake the Bruins.
Sequoyah led most of the game, taking a 14-8 lead in the first quarter that dropped by a bucket at the half to 30-26.
The Bruins stretched their lead to 46-38 after three quarters, but Woodland responded with an offensive fireworks display to claim the 66-60 victory.
Leading scorers for Woodland were Murphy, 19; Tobin, 14; Niblet, 9, and Royal, 7.
Williams was credited with six assists and Corey Tobin four steals. Niblet notched 12 rebounds.
Lady Wildcats 22
Woodland faced one of the region's toughest teams Saturday and gained some good experience the hard way as it fell, 63-22.
Head coach Colman Roberts said the Lady Wildcats was challenged by the Lady Longhorns.
"They are probably the best shooting perimeter team in the region," he said. "We got better on certain fundamentals as the game went on."
He noted the challenge did not let up even when the Lady Longhorns got up by 30 points.
"I told the kids not to worry about what others do," he said. "We can't control what they do or say. Take care of ourselves and let's look toward Feb. 11 at Region tournament. Today our kids fought until the final buzzer. That's all we can ask for them to do."
Leading scorers for Woodland were Ayrianna Metcalf, 6 points; Kennedy Robinson, 5; Brooke Hummel, 4; Jasmin Askew, 2; Casey Bucy, 2; Katie Harris, 2; Lyrica Solomon, 1 point.
Woodland pressed Sequoyah but couldn't close the deal Friday as it fell 35-28.
The Lady Wildcats stayed close, trailing by just four points with a minute and a half left, but couldn't get over the hump.
Leading scorers for Woodland were Solomon, 13 points; Jessie Michaels, 7 points; Metcalf, 5 points; Bucy, 2 points; Hummel, 1 point.