HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Wallace State freshman guard Xavier Mills scored the game-winning shot with 9 seconds remaining Sunday afternoon, sending the Lions to a slim 41-39 conference victory over Southern Union and capping a strong day for the basketball teams at Tom Drake Coliseum.
Mills and the Wallace State men secured a sweep in the closing seconds after the Wallace State Lady Lions prevailed 80-67 win in Sunday’s opener, collecting their first Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) victory.
The Wallace State (11-11, 2-2 ACCC) and Southern Union men were tied at 37-all with 2:19 remaining and 39-all with 1:12 left.
Wallace State’s Mills, who came in averaging 3.9 points, kept it in his hands during the final possession for the Lions. Mills slipped by Southern Union’s Markiese Champion on the right wing, drove the lane and dropped in a layup high off the glass for a 41-39 lead with 9 seconds left.
Southern Union had one final chance to tie or win the game, but Wallace State’s defense kept the Bison from attempting a clean shot and established a new season-low scoring output for an opponent.
“This team isn’t going to light up the scoreboard, and we’re probably not exciting to watch if you like offense. We realize who we are. We are a team that has to grind it out, set up in the half court and defend every possession. Our guys are starting to embrace that,” said Wallace State men’s coach John Meeks, whose team handed Southern Union its first league loss. “I was proud of our defensive effort. Southern Union can score very quickly and really shoot, but we did a good job of eliminating some of the looks they usually get on the perimeter.”
Mills, who made only one other bucket, had the green light from Meeks in the closing seconds.
“Xavier made a good decision to take it to the rim. We set something up for either him or Kriston Beasley. Xavier has been in that spot a couple of times and hasn’t made the shot. He’s beat himself up too much after missing them, so I’m glad he was able to step up. It was great to see,” Meeks said.
Freshman Kylen Butler led Wallace State with eight points, while Immanuel King and Tyrell Clary each added seven.
Both defenses were in control all afternoon. Neither team managed more than a 3-point lead in the first half. Butler gave Wallace State a short-lived 18-16 lead with 1:15 remaining in the first half, but Southern Union’s Devin Pugh responded with a 3 of his own seconds later to reclaim a 19-18 advantage for the Bison. That was the score at the half.
The conference foes traded leads three times over the opening 3:50 of the second half. A Mills’ jumper gave Wallace State a 23-22 lead with 16:45 to go, and Clary added a layup for a 25-22 advantage with 16:01 remaining.
Wallace State seized its biggest lead of the game, at 34-28, after Richard Smith converted a 3-point play with 7:45 to go.
Southern Union chipped away at its deficit over the next three minutes. Champion nailed a 3-pointer with 4:35 remaining to give the Bison a slight 37-35 advantage.
Wallace State’s King tied things up at 37-all with a dunk at the 2:19 mark. Southern Union then led 39-37 with less than two minutes left, but Wallace State’s Butler tied it up at 39-all with a baseline jumper with 1:12 remaining.
In the end, Mills saved the final heroics for the Lions, the defending conference champions.
Pugh led Southern Union (13-5, 3-1) with 16 points.
Wallace State 80, Southern Union 67
Wallace State sophomore guard Kaneisha Mixon overcame a second-half ankle injury on Sunday and set yet again a new career high with 24 points as the Lady Lions rolled to their first conference win of the season.
Mixon, who had a minimal role off the bench last season, has fixated herself as Wallace State’s starting point guard this season and continues to shine.
“Kaneisha Mixon and Morgan Hardy have improved so much since last season. They both had limited success last year, but have worked hard to be as successful as they are this season,” said Wallace State women’s coach Ron Burdette. “Kaneisha played extremely well today and we needed it.”
Mixon was among four Wallace State players to finish with double figures. Sophomore BreAnna Thompson scored 15 of her 17 points in the second half, Morgan Smith had 11 and Hardy poured in 10.
Wallace State (18-3, 1-2 ACCC) started strong in both halves against Southern Union (12-8, 1-2 ACCC) and easily rebounded from a rare home loss last Tuesday.
“It was important to get the first conference win under our belt. We’ve never started 0-2 in conference, but we played two good opponents. We are still playing in spurts. When we play together in sync, we play well and can play with anyone. Avoiding the bad spurts is the challenge,” Burdette said. “It was good to get back on the winning note. We are going to climb our way back in the ACCC North race. There’s a long way to go, and a lot of things can happen in the next eight games. We want to be playing our best in about five weeks when it’s time to go down to Bay Minette.”
The Lady Lions, the defending ACCC North champ, scooted out to a 13-2 lead less than five minutes into the game after Mixon put in an uncontested layup. A 3-pointer by Smith extended Wallace State’s lead to 21-10 with 12:25 remaining in the first half, and Mixon added a 3-pointer with 10:25 remaining to push the cushion to 26-12.
With 7:37 to go before the half, Mixon secured Wallace State’s largest lead of the day, converting a traditional 3-point play to make it 35-12.
The Lady Lions led 41-30 at the half.
Wallace State constructed a 56-38 advantage with 12:04 left in the game after a Tyra Caudle layup. Caudle finished with eight points.
Southern Union trimmed Wallace State’s lead to as little as seven points with 3:54 to go, but the Lady Lions responded with 10-0 run to seal the victory. Mixon drained a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws during the run, Smith added a 3-pointer and Thompson a layup.
For Southern Union, Kendall Adams led the way with 21 points.
Both Wallace State teams host Lawson State on Thursday as each continues conference play. The women’s game is scheduled for a noon tip with the men following at 2 p.m.
For more information about Wallace State athletics, visit wallacestate.edu.
Wallace State Community College
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