LEXINGTON — Lexington's offense wasn't always hitting on all cylinders against Tanner, but with the way the Golden Bears played defense, they didn't have to be.
Lexington held Tanner to just eight points in the first half and zero points in the second quarter and cruised to a 46-27 victory to wrap up the Class 2A, Area 15 championship.
"The girls love playing defense," Lexington coach Nicholas Cottrell said. "All year long we've worked hard on our defense and made that our focus. It's a testament to how hard they work in practice."
It is the fourth consecutive game the Bears have held their opponent to 31 points or fewer. Lexington improved to 22-6 overall and 5-0 in area play. The Bears' final area game is tonight against winless Sheffield. Tanner and Hatton finished tied for second place in the area with 3-3 records. It is the first time Lexington has won the area championship since 2007.
"I can't say enough about what (winning the area) means to our seniors," Cottrell said. "To be 5-0 and have a chance to be undefeated means a lot to me, but I'm more happy for the players, and especially those six seniors who have worked their butts off to get where we're at."
Lexington jumped out to an 11-3 lead in the first 3:30 of the game, but went through an almost eight-minute stretch without hitting a field goal. But Tanner was even worse offensively in the first half, going through an 11-minute stretch without scoring a point.
When all the bricks were finally laid, Lexington had a 19-8 halftime lead, and Tanner was left to wonder as to how it could hold a team without a field goal for almost eight minutes and still be losing by double digits.
"Our defense is the key for us," Lexington senior Haven Albright said. "We've gotten a whole lot better as the year has gone on. Defense is a total team effort, you can't be selfish. It's not just about you, but the team."
Lexington got its pick and roll offense going in the second half, and were able to either drive to the basket to get layups or pass the ball out for an open 3-pointer. Albright led the way with 14 points, five assists and six rebounds, while Savannah Stults had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Sydney Houstan was the only player in double figures for Tanner, with 10 points.
"We were really aggressive on offense," Albright said. "We were able to make openings for each other with our screens and either drove to the basket or kicked to an open shooter."
Lexington will host the area tournament and will play Sheffield in the first round, with the winner of that game guaranteed to advance to the sub-regional round.
Cottrell said it's great that his team won the regular season area championship for the first time in six years, but cautioned that their journey is far from over.
"The last (Lexington) team that won area didn't get to Wallace (State Community College for the regional tournament)," Cottrell said. "I've got to drive into the girls' heads that we can't be content. Winning the area is very nice, but it's not the end. Once the area tournaments start everybody's record goes back to 0-0. Our record and (state) ranking is great, but that part of the season is over. But if we play like I know we're capable of playing, we can contend with the best."
Tanner boys 53, Lexington 35
Tanner's Greg Maclin hit five 3-pointers and scored 23 points to lead the No. 1-ranked Rattlers to a 53-35 victory over Lexington.
Tanner improved to 18-2 on the season while Lexington fell to 8-12.
Tanner led 14-9 after one quarter and expanded the lead to 28-17 at halftime. The Rattlers then steadily pulled away from the Golden Bears in the second half.
Jace Haggermaker also scored 10 points for Tanner. Ethan Gray led Lexington with 11 points, while Jake Rogers and Wade McNutt each had nine.