Wallace state basketball lady lions begin national tournament vs. eastern arizona sports cullmantimes.com electricity in the 1920s

“We were disappointed we didn’t get the job done in the ACCC title game, but when I sat down and explained to the team we still had a chance to play for a national championship, our emotions flipped flopped from being down to being excited,” said Wallace State women’s coach Ron Burdette, who’s one win shy of 100 career victories with the Lady Lions. “We are going to be prepared and be where we need to be. We are angry we didn’t finish in the conference tournament, so we want to be the aggressor in Kansas.”

“Eastern Arizona is a lot like Shelton State as far as they switch a lot on defense. They aren’t overly big, so we think we can find a few size advantages on them,” said Burdette, one of three co-ACCC North Division Coaches of the Year. “I don’t think they’ll show us anything we haven’t seen this year.”

Burdette’s squad made the national tournament field after winning three ACCC postseason games. The Lady Lions defeated Enterprise State and Faulkner State in the opening rounds, and Morgan Smith’s 3-pointer as time expired in double overtime lifted Wallace State to a thrilling 89-88 victory over Shelton State in the ACCC semifinals, securing the national tournament bid.

Sophomore guard Haven Albright, a 2nd-team All-ACCC North selection, pours in 14 points per game for the Lady Lions and is shooting a team-best 55 percent from the field, including 37.6 percent from behind the arc. She’s scored in double figures in 10 consecutive games entering the national tournament.

Wallace State’s sophomore starting lineup of Smith, Albright, Thompson, Kaneisha Mixon and Morgan Hardy has provided stability all season. The group has been part of 54 wins in two seasons, carving out one of the best spurts in program history.

“It’s a special group. They picked up from where last year’s sophomores left off and didn’t want to miss a beat. That’s how you build a successful program,” Burdette said. “They have won 54 games in two season with at least one more to go. Winning more than 25 games a year in junior college basketball is a great resume.”

Burdette, who previously served as a Wallace State assistant, has watched former Lady Lions perform on the national stage and boost their opportunity to be noticed by unexpected four-year colleges. He hopes this sophomore class gains from the exposure.

“There will be four-year colleges there from all over the country ,” Burdette said. “There will be coaches there from colleges our players have watched on TV. It’s an opportunity for a sophomore to get on someone’s radar or a freshman to get on a radar for next season. It’s a great platform for the players to be seen.

“One of the best examples of how things can change is the story of Eartha White, a former Wallace State player (in 2001). She had something working with Birmingham-Southern before we went to Kansas. She went out to the national tournament, had two great games and then got a full ride to West Virginia. She went on to play against teams like Connecticut in the Big East.”