- Cullman, Alabama

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March 7, 2014

WALLACE STATE BASKETBALL: Lions eliminate Lawson State, set up ACCC Tourney showdown with Bucs

HANCEVILLE — Wallace State men’s basketball team is one win away from earning its third state championship in five seasons after prevailing 71-61 against Lawson State in the Alabama Community College  Conference (ACCC)/Region 22 Tournament semifinals Friday night at Tom Drake Coliseum.

Wallace State freshman Lee Moore posted his fifth double-double of the season, scoring a game-high 21 points and collecting 10 rebounds, and the top-seeded Lions officially punched their ticket to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I national tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas, beginning March 17. Wallace State has already secured a national tournament bid because Region 22 is zoned for two slots this season.

The Lions (26-6) aren’t quite satisfied though. They have one more big game on their minds Saturday, the ACCC/Region 22 Tournament championship game against rival Shelton State at 5 p.m.

“We are thrilled with this win against Lawson State, but our guys aren’t talking about going to Hutchinson yet. They are excited about playing Shelton State. We want to cut down the nets on our home court. They know how much Saturday’s  championship means,” said Wallace State coach John Meeks, who won his 80th career game with the Lions. “Our guys understand the rivalry with Shelton State. It runs deep. It’s the two teams people in this state expect to be playing for it all. It  should be fun. It will give us another chance to grow together as a team.”

Wallace State and Shelton State’s men’s programs have swapped the past four state championships, with the Lions winning in 2010 and again in 2012 during Meeks’ second year with the program. The teams split their regular-season meetings  this season with each team winning on their home courts.

Wallace State had to take care of Lawson State first to assure itself of more postseason basketball. Unlike Thursday’s quarterfinal game versus Bishop State, Wallace State started Friday’s first half on an impressive note.

The Lions led 15-6 after the opening 10 minutes. Cody Farley’s 3-pointer with 4:35 remaining handed the Lions a 23-13 advantage, and Moore extended it to 28-15 with a 3 of his own with 2:37 left before half. 

Wallace State limited Lawson State to only 26 percent shooting in the first half, maintaining a 33-20 cushion at intermission.

Wallace State grabbed its biggest lead of the game, at 15 points, on a Darius Joell 3-pointer with 13:10 left in the game. Lawson State chipped away over the next 10 minutes and made it interesting down the stretch. The Cougars cut the  deficit to 57-53 with 3:40 remaining and 58-55 after a bucket from DeMarco Dansby.

Wallace State quickly responded with a pair of free throws from Sean Anthony and a Moore field goal over its next two possessions, pushing its advantage to 62-55. Wallace State iced the win over the final 28.2 seconds with four free throws  from Moore, who finished 10 of 12 from the line, and an emphatic slam dunk by Quinterian McConico.

“I thought we played very, very well in the first half. We made Lawson State come out and be the aggressor. We were able to execute against their zone, and that helped us take the lead. We also played very well defensively,” Meeks said.  “We let their pressure get in our heads in the second half and struggled a little bit. We got away from being a family, but we bonded back together and grew up some more down the stretch. We were composed and played well enough to close it out.”

Farley and Jestin Lewis each added nine points for Wallace State and Joell had seven off the bench.

For Lawson State, a No. 3 seed, Dansby led the way with 13 points off the bench.

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