HANCEVILLE – Wallace State’s basketball teams made sure Monday’s regular season home finales were ones to savor for a while.
The 21st-ranked Lady Lions clinched the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) North Division championship with a 70-51 victory over Lawson State, and the Wallace State men earned at least a share of the ACCC North Division crown with a gritty 80-74 victory in the nightcap at Tom Drake Coliseum.
This season has been the best ever for the Wallace State women’s and men’s programs collectively and both teams secured byes Monday for next week’s ACCC tournament, which will be played in Hanceville.
“I’m thrilled for our women. I told them we accomplished two of our goals, which was to secure the top spot in the division and remain undefeated on our home court. It’s huge for us to earn a bye and win the division outright,” said Wallace State third-year coach Ron Burdette. “All of it is a huge accomplishment for our players. We’ve put together one of the best seasons in recent history, and we don’t feel we are done yet.”
Wallace State men’s coach John Meeks echoed the same praise for his club.
“I’m happy for the guys and proud of them. We are banged up. We are missing two starters, but we’ve found a way to grind out these last two wins,” said Meeks, who’s in his fourth year with the Lions. “This capped us being undefeated on our home court in the conference and that’s huge. We protected our home court and ultimately we want to do that until it’s time to cut down our own nets. I told the guys congratulations on winning a championship. It’s not easy. Now, we have to decide whether we win it outright or we share it.”
Wallace State’s women (25-4, 8-1 ACCC) had its 10-game winning streak snapped at Gadsden State over the weekend, but the Lady Lions put to rest any ill effects of a hangover on Monday.
The Lady Lions led throughout. They maintained a 23-18 advantage with 10:20 remaining in the first half after an Ashley Rodgers’ 3-pointer and pulled away for a 42-29 lead at the break.
Lawson State cut the deficit to as few as seven points in the opening five minutes of the second half, but Wallace State answered with a 12-2 run to put the game out of reach.
“We took a kick in the gut Saturday and I thought we came out a little sluggish again. Lawson State is quick and can force turnovers, but once we got our confidence rolling we started to look like the team we’ve known all year,” said Burdette, whose team played its third game in five days.
Freshman Morgan Smith led Wallace State’s attack with 18 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Jasmine Coleman scored 14 points for the Lady Lions, Haven Albright finished with nine off the bench and DeAndrea Carter pitched in with eight.
Kari Jones paced Lawson State in the loss with 18 points, while Jamarra Taylor added 12.
The Lady Lions close the regular season at Snead State on Thursday. Their first game in next week’s conference tournament will be on March 3 at 7 p.m.
“We’ll continue to try to get better before next week. I can’t say enough about our sophomores and their desire to not let us lose at home this year. They are part of my first recruiting class that we went out and signed and this was their 47th win as a group. They have an opportunity to win 50 plus games in two years, which is huge for any team,” said Burdette, whose team finished 13-0 at home during the regular season. “I’m excited to see what’s still in store for this group.”
Wallace State men 80, Lawson State 74
Wallace State was down its starting point guard, starting center and sixth man against the Cougars. The Lions weren’t going to let that hinder them from clinching a share of the ACCC North crown.
Freshman Marcus Hayes filled in superbly at the point, pouring in a career-high 21 points and three other Lions finished with double figures as Wallace State outlasted Lawson State.
“Our slogan for this game was SWAG, which means strengthen when adversity grows. We only had eight guys tonight (Monday). We’ve had to rely on new guys to step up and deliver, and they’ve done a good job when called upon,” Meeks said. “This is another game we had to gut out, but that should help us as a team moving forward. We’ve been dealt some difficult circumstances, but we keep responding with wins.”
Wallace State (23-6, 9-2 ACCC) was red hot at the outset of the game, storming out to a 16-2 lead less than six minutes in. The Lions extended their cushion to 44-29 at halftime.
Hayes helped keep Lawson State at bay in the early minutes of the second half, nailing 3-pointers for the Lions on three consecutive possessions. His treys pushed Wallace State’s lead to 57-43 with 14:29 left in the game.
Lawson State gradually chipped away and cut Wallace State’s lead to 67-61 with 4:32 remaining. Wallace State pushed its lead back out to 10 points, controlling a 76-66 lead with 1:23 left after a Quinterian McConico free throw.
The Cougars had one final push that wasn’t quite good enough. They made it a one-possession game, at 77-74, after Khalil Davis hit a 3 with 36 seconds remaining, but Hayes hit two free throws for the Lions to make it 79-74 with 26.6 seconds left.
Lawson State didn’t score again.
Hayes hit 10-of-10 free throws en route to his career night for Wallace State, Lee Moore scored 15, McConico finished with 14 points and Jestin Lewis scored all of 12 of his points in the first half.
“Marcus Hayes was huge. He was clutch from the free-throw line. Marcus is still learning, which is good for him because it’s going to make him a ton better for the team,” Meeks said.
For Lawson State, Davis scored a game-high 21 points. Da’Shaun Griffin finished with 12.
Like the women, the Lions finish the regular season Thursday at Snead State. A win gives Wallace State the outright regular season championship.
For more information about Wallace State athletics, visit wallacestate.edu.
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