Adhering to a methodical half-court offense wasn’t a tactic Lehman High head coach Michael Whitten expected to employ at the start of the season.
Twenty-one games and an epiphany later, Whitten realized slowing the game down was a needed change to help keep the Lobos competitive in district play.
Such was the case Tuesday as the Lobos used their half-court attack to dispatch the Vandegrift Vipers in a critical 58-37 win at the Lobo Den. Lehman (10-11, 1-1) scored the program’s second district win in 16 district contests.
Whitten said maintaining the current status quo helps Lehman even the playing field.
“We’ve been doing this for the past ten games and it’s been a good formula,” Whitten said. “We’ll keep doing it as long as we keep having success.”
Lehman began slowing the pace of play right from the opening tipoff. After Vandegrift snagged an early 2-0 lead, Lehman countered with a 14-6 run to close the first quarter.
They did so by spreading the floor, taking advantage of weak spots and attacking the basket. Whitten said the ultimate goal was to force 6-foot, 7-inch Vandegrift center Greg Brown III to move from the paint.
Adept perimeter shooting, along with the ability to obtain production from multiple sources, also played a vital role in the Lobos’ success.
Lobo sophomore Cameron Jones tallied seven of his 14 points in the first quarter. Lehman senior Tracy Malrey scored 15 of his game high 19 points in the second and third quarters.
“We came out ready to play. It was fun. We started out from the jump with good defense, shots were falling and we made free throws,” Malrey said. “We just took care of business.”
Lehman expanded its lead in the second quarter, aided by Malrey and Kameron Edwards, who finished with eight points.
Lehman led 32-22 at intermission and never looked back from there. A pair of three-pointers scored by Malrey guided the Lobos to a 43-29 lead after three quarters. Free throws gave Lehman the edge in the final frame as they outscored Vandegrift 15-8 down the stretch.
Aiding the Lobos was the ability to control the pace and slow down the tempo. A patient attitude along with fluid ball movement allowed the Lobos to extend possessions and keep the ball out of the Vipers’ hands.
“If we’re up, there’s no reason to force anything,” Whitten said. “High school kids don’t want to play defense for a long time. If you make them, they have a tendency to break down. We were waiting for them to get tired of it, that’s when we tried to attack.”
On defense, the Lobos kept the ball out of Brown’s hands. Brown finished the game with a team-high 13 points.
Whitten said the Lobos shaded toward perimeter shooters along with players who helped the backside of plays.
“The main game plan was to keep the ball out of (Brown’s) hands,” Whitten said. “He’s been a huge part of their success this year.”
Obtaining the win was “huge” as it was a confidence builder early in the district season, Whitten said.
“It means a lot for us,” Malrey said. “It’s a big step forward and I look forward to many more.”