Eddie Lampkin had a rough first few minutes during Friday’s game against Cinco Ranch.
Morton Ranch’s 6-foot-11, 290-pound junior center missed three early shots at the rim and almost gifted the Cougars, who broke out to an 11-point lead after one quarter, an apparent runaway win in a highly-anticipated matchup between, arguably, District 19-6A’s two top teams.
But as quickly as Lampkin struggled during the first quarter, he thrived just as rapidly in the fourth.
Lampkin produced nine points, five rebounds and three assists in the final period, lifting Morton Ranch to a dramatic 60-59 comeback win at home. No play was greater, however, or more memorable, than Lampkin’s buzzer-beating shot to push the Mavericks to 3-0 in 19-6A play.
After the Cougars’ Andrew Adebo missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw set with 12.1 seconds left, Mavericks guard L.J. Cryer raced downcourt. He briefly dribbled into the paint on the right side of the court before reversing course back behind the 3-point line.
Cryer swing the ball to guard Isaiah Babalola on the opposite wing. Babalola took a hard dribble to his left and threw a dart pass to a posted-up Lampkin right at the front of the rim. Lampkin turned to his left while taking a quick dribble and threw up a soft hook shot that bounced off the left backside of the rim and in.
“IB threw me the ball. I went up, got a lucky bounce and it went in,” said Lampkin, who finished with 11 points, six rebounds and five assists. “That’s a good team that we had to beat.”
Indeed, Cinco Ranch (18-5, 1-1 19-6A) held a 12-point lead entering the fourth quarter. The Cougars got there by winning the rebound and turnover battles during the first three quarters.
But in the fourth, Morton Ranch outscored Cinco Ranch 23-10, outrebounded the Cougars 9-5 and forced six turnovers while giving up just two.
It was a huge Westley Sellers 3-pointer that pulled Morton Ranch within 59-58 with 22 seconds left, setting up Lampkin's buzzer-beating theatrics.
Lampkin was the focal point of Morton Ranch’s offense in the fourth quarter. With star guard Cryer clearly hobbled by an ailing right ankle, Lampkin initiated offense all around the basket, on the perimeter or close by.
The Mavericks started the game that way, but Lampkin missed three easy shots close to the rim. Even then, however, it was clear he had an advantage over the smaller Cougars, and he made those shots count late.
“I felt like I had to give it my all in the fourth quarter,” Lampkin said. “We were down 12, but we’ve come back before. I wasn’t rushing shots like I was early on. I was off. But I finished.”
Much to the dismay of Cougars coach Neil King, whose team’s impressive first 24 minutes were ruined by the heartbreaking final eight.
“He’s so big and strong and physical,” King said of Lampkin. “We tried to send multiple guys at him when he got the ball. He’s a very talented player. He’s got some length and size that makes its difficult.”
While Lampkin solidified the offense, Morton Ranch coach Khris Turner unleashed a press defense in the fourth quarter. The press ignited late rallies during games earlier this season.
It did so again Friday.
“They sped us up and forced mistakes,” King said. “We didn’t execute like we needed to.”
Said Cryer: “The other team starts getting rattled, we get some steals and we get some buckets.”
Turner said the press works because of his players’ natural aggressiveness.
“You put them in a press, and their eyes light up,” Turner said. “We’ve been working that press for about three years now. We used to press all the time, but you can’t win games when you press all the time. We mix it in there when we can.”
Cinco Ranch was strong early on. Jaron Presley scored a game-high 21 points on 5-of-8 shooting from 3. Jayden Collymore, Adebo and Derek Dickenscheidt were pests on the offensive glass.
The Cougars' effort was workmanlike.
The Cougars took care of the ball and got the shots they wanted. But down the stretch, all of that disappeared.
In the second half, Cinco Ranch committed 11 of its 13 turnovers. In the fourth quarter, the Cougars missed four of five free throws.
“Everybody looks at the fourth quarter, and it’s not just that,” King said. “It’s the mistakes we made in the first quarter, second quarter and third quarter. It’s all the missed assignments and missed shots we had early. Some of the mistakes we made early on in the game didn’t help at the end.”
Cinco Ranch missed a chance to steal a win against a hobbled Cryer, who said he is at about “70-80 percent” full health in trying to recover from an ankle injury suffered during the Katy ISD Classic on December 1.
Cryer scored 20 points, but struggled to push off on his right foot. Uncharacteristically, he missed five of six 3-point attempts and four of seven free-throw attempts.
“L.J. will fight through, no matter what,” Turner said. “When he says he can go, we listen. We know he won’t do anything to make it worse. My guess is he’s probably not where we want him, but if he says he can play he’s earned that. Whatever he says, I’ll roll with it.”
In the meantime, the Mavericks turned to their other prized Class of 2020 recruit, who delivered a big win against a team Cryer said “is very underrated.”
“He turned it on in the second half,” Cryer said of Lampkin. “The defense wasn’t stopping him. He was a little off, got back on track and started doing his thing.”