Lady Cardinals open ACCC play with win over Wallace-Hanceville


By Chris McCarthy/Editor

The Gadsden State women’s basketball team kicked off league play with a flourish on Tuesday (Jan. 13).

Facing the 21st ranked junior college team in the nation in Wallace State-Hanceville, the Lady Cardinals (17-2, 1-0) pulled out a 60-55 victory in Alabama Community College Conference action at Beck Field House.

After opening the second half with a 17-6 run, the hosts saw their 13-point advantage dwindle to three at 53-50 with less than four minutes remaining in the game.

Gadsden State weathered the Lady Lions’ late surge, however, beginning with Morgan’s Jones’ put-back that gave GSCC a five-point lead at 2:10.

A foul shot by Sydney Houston and a layup from Morgan Smith drew the visitors within 55-53 with under a minute to go, but with 29 seconds left, Brittany Washington drew a blocking foul while going up for a rebound. The freshman guard sank a free throw to make it a three-point lead.

Wallace State (16-2, 0-1) then worked the clock down to five seconds and missed on a three-point attempt. 

Breanna Thompson was fouled on the rebound, however, and she knocked down a pair of free throws in a one-and-one situation to draw the Lady Lions within 56-55.

Wallace got the rebound but turned the ball over with two seconds left, and Kaelyn Irby scored the final two of her game-high 13 points at the buzzer to seal the win.

Gadsden State head coach John Butts pointed to his team’s perimeter defense as a key factor in the win, as Wallace shot just 3-for-18 from three-point range.

“Two of their 3’s were bank shots, so we’re absolutely ecstatic about that. Our defense was phenomenal; we just didn’t block out on their second and third shot opportunities. But the flip side of that is that we got a bunch of run-outs because Wallace had kids going for the rebound and then not getting back on defense.”

Butts acknowledged that his team was fortunate to come out on top after being out-rebounded 40-32, including 16-9 on the offensive boards. 

“We just have to do a better job under the glass. It’s something that we’re usually really good at, and right now we’re not very good at it. But we were able to run five girls in and five out a lot tonight, which really made a difference. We used our non-conference schedule to create depth, and it paid off tonight.”

Irby also had six assists, six steals and four rebounds.

Carla Clemmons and Austin Richardson each had nine points and five rebounds, while D.J. Catlin chipped in seven points and eight boards.

Washington finished with seven points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists.

Thompson and Haven Albright led Wallace with 11 points each. 

Several turnovers left the Lady Cardinals in an early 10-2 hole. The hosts regrouped to take a 23-21 lead on back-to-back three-pointers from Richardson and Irby, and Washington’s free throw at the end of the first half put Gadsden State ahead, 29-27. 

Whatever adjustments were made at halftime worked for the Lady Cardinals, as they opened the second half with an 11-0 spurt. But Wallace responded with a 16-7 stretch, narrowing the gap to 48-43.

“We told the girls that it was a game of runs; we were going to make one and [Wallace’ was going to make one,” said Butts. “What our girls have to do is get mentally tough enough to understand that it’s going to be that way in most of our conference games. You’ve got to be in top mental condition as well as physical condition to come out on top in those situations. I’m very happy that we’re able to do that, because a lot of teams can’t.”

Taylor Frazier’s two foul shots and three-pointer increased Gadsden State’s lead to 10 points before the hosts withstood the Lady Lions’ rally attempt down the stretch. 

“We told our kids to get ready for every conference game, because everybody’s good this year,” said Butts. “But every one of our girls come from good programs that are used to winning, and there’s no substitute for that.”

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