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Wallace moves on

Wallace made its first postseason appearance in seven years count with an 82-79 win over Marion Military Institute in the first round of the Alabama Community College Conference Tournament on Thursday.

“It’s very big. It’s something that hasn’t been done for some time at the school,” said Wallace coach Ronald Lane. “The guys have really turned it around.”

The Patriots bounced back from a 10-point second-half deficit after Michael Acoff hit a layup to break a 77-77 tie and put Wallace ahead for good with 57 seconds left. Darrell Mayberry and Chris Walker hit a free throw each to extend the lead to 81-77.

A Langston Williams jumper made it 81-79 with 15 seconds left, but a Brandon Barlow free throw and Walker steal secured the win.

After taking a 13-8 first quarter lead on a Walker 3-pointer with 12:05 remaining, the Patriots went cold from the floor. The Tigers held them scoreless for the next 3:09, and used a 13-0 run over that span to push ahead 21-13.

Wallace twice cut the deficit to three points, but MMI took a 39-32 lead into intermission.

The Patriots had several opportunities to retake the lead in the second half, but could not get over the hump — a trait found in most of their losses this season.

A 7-0 run capped by a pair of Walker free throws tied the game at 46 with 16:16 remaining. Forty-six seconds later, he hit another pair to tie it at 48.

The Tigers pushed the lead back to five from the free throw line and increased it to 64-54 — their largest of the game — on an Andre Battle layup with 9:23 left in the contest.

But, the difference between the earlier losses and Thursday’s win was that this time the Patriots did not crumble under the pressure. They answered with a 16-5 run highlighted by a Walker jump shot that put Wallace ahead 70-69. It was the Patriots’ first lead in more than 24 minutes.

“From the standpoint of the kids, we can see the turnaround,” said Lane. “We can see now we’re making strides. We can go to the wire with anybody.”

MMI retook the lead at 75-74 on a Langston Williams jumper with 2:41 remaining, but Walker answered with a jumper and free throw to put Wallace back on top 77-75. Walker easily led all scorers with 35 points on the day.

“For a guy who’s supposed to be hobbling on a swollen foot and a sore knee, he’s got the heart of a lion,” said Lane. “He’s just really put the team on his back.”

Acoff finished with 19 points, Darrell Mayberry added nine and Reggie Mann finished with eight.

With the win, Wallace advances to today’s 1 p.m. ACCC quarterfinal game against Alabama Southern. The Patriots came up short in two earlier meetings, but enter the game with confidence.

“We know we can play with them. We know we can beat them,” said Lane.