Patriots changing the culture

Published 10:51 pm Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When pundits around the region eye their community college playoff brackets, they may be in for a bit of a surprise.

For the first time since 2002, Wallace will be a part of the mix.

No, the Patriots’ 11-19 overall record is not sterling, but it is a welcome sign of progress and change for a team saddled with a 3-27 record last year.

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Under first-year coach Ronald Lane, Wallace finished 8-7 in-conference, and will face Jeff Davis — a team the Patriots have beaten twice — in the opening round.

“This team has come so far. They believe in themselves,” said Lane. “This season is kind of like a springboard, a building block toward championships. I think people have taken notice.”

None more so than his own players. They are confident about their chances once the “second season” begins.

“When the postseason starts, everybody’s got the same record — 0-0,” said sophomore forward Michael Acoff. “Everybody gets to start over, and hopefully for us, this is our chance to prove that we are a very competitive team.”

The Patriots were more competitive than their record indicates. Not only did they improve by eight wins over the 2007-08 team — seven of their losses came by two points or less.

The players attribute the improvement to a year of experience, in addition to the change at the top.

“We could’ve done better last year, but we were just freshmen. We were inexperienced,” said Chris Walker. “We’ve got a little more experience this year. (Lane) pushed us harder than the last coach did. We’ve got more weapons than we did last year.”

Talk about a 180. The young guys are now the leaders, and Lane sees them as the catalysts of a season that can bring dividends on the recruiting trail.

“I think the sophomores are the ones who helped get us over the hump,” said Lane. “I think it took a while for the guys to really buy into it. The program had been down for some time, and there was a lot of skepticism from the community and student body.

“The mentality is slowly but surely starting to change. (Reaching the playoffs is) big for the community, big for the school, and hopefully will serve as a recruiting tool.”

The Patriots can’t look ahead just yet though. Enterprise-Ozark waits on Saturday. But, even with one game before their playoff date with Jeff Davis, confidence bubbles on the surface.

“We don’t consider ourselves underdogs,” said Jerome Davidson.

But, Acoff takes it a step further,

“We’re bringing the championship back to Selma,” he said. “I’m calling it.”