It took an extra period, but Wallace State has its first ever conference championship in men’s basketball.
Tournament Co-MVP L.A. Farmer scored nine of his game-high 26 points in overtime to propel eighth-ranked Wallace to a 77-70 victory over seventh-ranked rival Shelton State Saturday night at Shelton State’s Humphrey Center in the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) championship.
After losing the two previous years in the National Junior College Athletic Association Region XXII tournament championship, Wallace captured its first basketball title with flair.
The Lions (29-4) overcame a nine-point deficit with only 2:35 remaining in the second half and outscored Shelton State 15-8 in overtime.
Gaither Hendrix nailed two 3-pointers in the final 1:19 in regulation to tie it at 62-all and Farmer took care of the rest.
“We’re very excited and relieved to win. It seemed we had been snake-bitten in this game,” said Wallace coach Allen Sharpe, who was named the ACCC North Coach of the Year. “I can’t say enough about our guys. The biggest thing was we didn’t panic.
“I’ve got great guys. L.A. Farmer had a great night. Guys like L.A. make a coach look good. Gaither Hendrix also stepped up again. What else can you say?”
Hendrix poured in 13 points for the Lions including three 3-pointers.
Ricardo Hall, playing in his hometown, was named Tournament Co-MVP with Farmer after finishing with 13 points and seven rebounds.
Donterious Hughes had 12 points off the bench for Wallace and Farmer added seven rebounds and two assists.
“This feels so great. This is my first ring,” Farmer said. “We played well tonight (Saturday) against a team we love to play. This means so much. I’ve had ups and downs in my career, but Coach Sharpe has always stuck with me.”
Wallace led 31-27 at the half in a rivalry which featured nine lead changes and nine ties.
Jarodiaus Willingham and Justin Wagner each scored 21 points for Shelton State (29-4), which had its two-year run as state champion halted.
As the Region XXII champion, Wallace now heads to the NJCAA National Championship, which begins March 16 in Hutchinson, Kansas.
“I told the guys before the game that we’ve had really good players and really good teams come through here. All of them came up short,” Sharpe said. “Our guys knew they could go down in history as the first team to be state champions. They took it to heart and won this game.”
The ACCC has sent a men’s basketball champion to the state tournament since 1967-68.
Wallace’s Sergio Crowe and Darrick Thomas were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Based on regular-season play, Farmer was a NJCAA Region XXII First-Team selection and Thomas made the second team.