HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Wallace State’s basketball teams each won their fourth consecutive conference games Thursday night as they swept Gadsden State at Tom Drake Coliseum.
Morgan Smith poured in 29 points, Haven Albright added 17 and the Lady Lions rolled to an 81-64 victory in the opener.
The Wallace State men capped the profitable night with a 67-50 victory, remaining tied for first in the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) North Division.
Wallace State’s women saved one its best performances of the season for the Lady Cardinals. The Lady Lions (21-3, 4-2 ACCC) never trailed, led 39-32 at halftime and limited Gadsden State to only one field goal over the opening five minutes of the second half. Wallace State put together as much as an 17-point lead in the second half.
“It’s probably as close to a complete game as we’ve played all year long. I thought we kept our composure when it looked like Gadsden State was going to make a run. I’m thrilled to death with our team, especially after going up there last month and being heartbroken and kicked in the gut. We came back and did some kicking tonight,” said Wallace State women’s coach Ron Burdette. “We have responded with two good weeks after starting the conference 0-2. We are playing with a lot of confidence and executing well.”
Wallace State scooted out to a 21-15 lead with 11:47 remaining in the first half. An Albright 3-pointer pushed Wallace State’s lead to 27-19 with seven minutes to go.
Smith, a Cullman grad, later gave the Lady Lions a 32-25 advantage with 2:35 remaining before the half after corralling a loose ball and driving coast-to-coast. Smith closed the first half with nine consecutive points for the Lady Lions, who led 39-32 at the break.
The Lady Lions pulled away early in the second half, using a 10-5 run to seize a 49-35 cushion. Smith capped the run with a 3-pointer with 15:10 left in the game.
Smith, the conference’s second-leading scorer, converted a 4-point play for the Lady Lions with 11:01 remaining, pushing Wallace State’s lead to 56-44.
Wallace State grabbed its biggest lead of the game, at 65-48, after Kaneisha Mixon drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner with a little less than seven minutes to go.
Gadsden State never managed a serious second-half threat.
Mixon finished with 14 points for Wallace State and BreAnna Thompson scored all seven of her points in the second half.
Carla Clemmons led Gadsden State (20-4, 3-2 ACCC) with 22 points. Morgan Jones added 11 points.
Wallace State men 67, Gadsden State 50
Only one player remains from Wallace State’s conference championship team last season, but the Lions continue to remain at the top of the ACCC North standings.
Wallace State (14-11, 5-2 ACCC) locked down defensively in the second half against Gadsden State, and three players scored in double figures to extend the team’s winning streak to four games.
“I thought we were a little tight early and rattled some mentally. I told the guys they needed to relish the opportunity they have to be sitting in first place right now and play like a first-place team,” said Wallace State men’s coach John Meeks, who is four wins away from 100 victories with the Lions. “I thought we guarded down the stretch and decided to relish the opportunity.”
While last season’s team had a lot of offensive firepower, the 2014-15 version of the Lions relies on its defense to frustrate opponents.
It’s an identity Meeks is thrilled to see his team embrace.
“I knew we were building towards this point. I knew we were going to take some tough losses. We played a tough schedule early on and had to shift some things around with internal situations,” Meeks said. “We have stability now and guys know their role and what they need to do. Nothing matters until you get to these 12 conference games and once you get into the tournament those are the only games that matter. I hope our guys enjoy playing with an ‘X’ on their back.”
Wallace State had to come-from-behind for a second straight time on its home floor. The Lions trailed 13-7 with 13:49 remaining in the first half. They chipped away over the next seven minutes and grabbed a brief 18-17 edge with 6:29 to go after Kriston Beasley put in a layup.
Wallace State led 25-19 with three minutes to go after a Bennett Wilson 3-pointer, but were held scoreless until halftime. Meanwhile, Gadsden State closed the half with 3-pointers by Pat Edmonds and Tevin Wise, tying the game at 25-all at intermission.
Wallace State’s Jacob Barrett and Kylen Butler nailed 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to give the Lions a 31-25 advantage less than two minutes into the second half.
Gadsden State answered with a 12-1 run and maintained a slight 37-36 lead with 15:03 to go.
Richard Smith responded with a bucket for the Lions, reclaiming a 38-37 advantage for his team.
Wallace State never trailed again. Sidney Knox drained a 3-pointer with 8:32 remaining to extend Wallace State’s lead to 43-37, and he added a layup with 4:56 to go for a 48-38 cushion.
The Lions led by as many as 17 points in the second half.
Barrett paced Wallace State for the second game in a row, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the second half. Knox and Beasley scored 10 points apiece and Butler added six.
Edmonds led Gadsden State (14-10, 3-3 ACCC) in the loss with 16 points. Jacob Gibson scored 11.
Wallace State’s men travel to Marion Military Institute on Monday, a stretch that begins four consecutive road games.
“It’s going to be a tough stretch, that’s for sure. We can play sloppy at home and be able to get by at times. We can’t do that on the road. We have to be sharper,” Meeks said. “We better be prepared for this stretch because it’s going to be grueling.”
Wallace State’s women are back in action on Thursday when both teams travel to Shelton State.