By Russell Moore
FOR THE TIMES
HANCEVILLE — For the third consecutive year, Wallace State’s women’s basketball team has earned a date with arch-rival Shelton State in the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) title game.
The Lady Lions (23-9) punched their ticket to the tournament final with a 77-63 triumph over Lawson State on Tuesday night at the Tom Drake Coliseum, utilizing another dominant performance from forward Ashley Nance and strong bench contributions to defeat the Lady Cougars for the second time in five days and third time this season.
Nance recorded her 20th double-double in the victory, pouring in a game-high 23 points, including 13 from the free-throw line, and collecting 11 rebounds. DeAndrea Carter added 10 points, and Jaylan Snowden finished with nine. Off the bench, Lauren Harris finished with nine points and five rebounds, Hannah Sharpe scored eight points, and Jasmine Coleman added eight points and 10 rebounds.
“It was a total team effort. We don’t have a one-man show and never have this season,” said Wallace State coach Ron Burdette, who has led his team to the ACCC title game in each of his first two seasons. “Ashley Nance’s stats stand out, but she goes and gets the ball. Ashley energizes us and makes others want to step up and make plays. We haven’t had Lauren Harris most of the year because of illness or injury, but she has given us unbelievable minutes the last two weeks. Jasmine Coleman was huge in this game, and DeAndrea Carter hit some big shots.”
Unlike Monday’s gritty quarterfinal win over Alabama Southern, Wallace State never trailed against Lawson State, controlling a 12-3 lead during the opening seven minutes and a 35-30 advantage at halftime.
Lawson State trimmed Wallace State’s lead to two points halfway through the second half, but the Lady Lions staved off the rally and pulled away in the final 10 minutes.
Wallace State now gets a third crack at undefeated and fourth-ranked Shelton State (31-0) in Wednesday’s championship game, beginning at 7 p.m. Shelton State, a 80-68 winner over Gadsden State in Tuesday’s opening semifinal, won the two previous regular-season meetings against Wallace State by double digits.
“Everything we’ve done since August has culminated to this point. We have a chance to win a championship on our home floor and cut down our own nets. Our women have been looking forward to this opportunity and have achieved it. Our ultimate goal is still in front of us,” Burdette said. “We’ve got to make sure we take care of the basketball against Shelton State and make good decisions.”
Wallace State and Shelton State have split their two previous ACCC tournament title games, with the Lady Lions winning in 2011 and Shelton State last season.
Before the rivals meet for a third time Wednesday, the men’s ACCC tournament tips off its opening round at 11 a.m. with Bishop State and Southern Union. Snead State and L.B. Wallace follow at 1 p.m., Lawson State and Enterprise State play at 3 p.m. and Wallace State opposes Wallace-Selma at 5 p.m.