By Russell Moore
For The Times
Wallace State’s men’s basketball team won’t be able to repeat another magical March run this season. The Lions lost to top-seeded Shelton State 69-61 Thursday night in the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) tournament quarterfinals, ending Wallace State’s attempt at back-to-back state championships.
After scooting out to a scorching 13-0 start and leading 35-33 at the half, Wallace State struggled to score consistently in the second half, shooting only 30 percent. Shelton State countered by making half of its shots (14 of 28).
“I thought our energy was great at the start. We were obviously pumped up to play. Our guys knew how much this game meant because it’s always a big one. We just didn’t play to our principles like we needed to do. We didn’t follow the scouting report defensively like we had talked and didn’t communicate like we needed,” said Wallace State coach John Meeks, whose team was the North’s fifth seed. “I hate it for all the guys, but especially for the three sophomores. I know those guys really wanted to repeat.”
For the second consecutive night, four Wallace State players finished with double figures. Marcus Johnson led the way with 16 points, Jestin Lewis added 11 points and six assists, Jamalcolm Griffin had 11 points, and Ryan King contributed 10 points and eight rebounds.
Jacob Perry led Shelton State (23-8) with 15 points, while Ladarius Tabb had 10. The Bucs, playing their first tournament game after a Wednesday bye, outrebounded Wallace State 51-36, including collecting 18 offensive boards.
Six different Lions scored a bucket to begin the game, as Wallace State built a 13-0 cushion in the opening five minutes. Shelton State countered with a 10-0 surge of its own before the Lions extended the advantage back to 10 points with 6:16 remaining in the first half. Shelton State chipped away over the final six minutes and trailed 35-33 at the half.
The teams traded leads four times in the first three minutes of the second half before Shelton State’s Travis Daniels hit a bucket in the lane at the 16:38 mark for a slim 41-39 advantage. The Bucs never surrendered the lead the rest of the way.
Sean Tingle added nine points to Shelton State’s output, and Daniels had eight.
A year after winning its second state championship in three seasons and advancing to the NJCAA Division I national tournament, Wallace State finished with a 17-14 record in Meeks’ third campaign.
Thursday marked the final games at Wallace State for Griffin, King and Jacquise Moore.
“Those guys battled from a place last year that no one thought they could achieve. We were completely counted out last year and came out and won four games in four days. They made us a factor,” Meeks said. “We had those three back this year and were on everyone’s mind this tournament. No one was going to let us slip up on them this year.”
The men’s ACCC tournament resumes Friday at Wallace State with a pair of semifinal games. Gadsden State and Chattahoochee Valley play at 5 p.m., followed by Shelton State and Faulkner State at 7 p.m.