The walk from the Myers Park High basketball court to the boys’ home locker room is a long trek to begin with. To get there, the Mustangs must walk off the court, through a back door, down a long flight of stairs, through a heavy door and down a winding hallway.
On Feb. 3, that walk appeared to be pure agony for Myers Park senior standout Patrick Wallace.
Wallace had fouled out of his final regular-season home game for the Mustangs. He had been spectacular, scoring 23 points against Southwestern 4A conference rival South Mecklenburg, but Myers Park lost before a standing-room only crowd.
And, as has been the case throughout his career, Wallace was more concerned about his team’s record than his individual accomplishments, so he wasn’t exactly feeling upbeat.
“We had won six in a row, and we were pretty hyped with it being Senior Night and we were playing pretty well as a team,” he said as he stood outside the locker room with a sullen look on his face. “We had a chance to (have sole possession of first place), and we didn’t get it, so losing this game was pretty tough.
“I’d rather have two points in a win than however many I had in this loss. I just hate losing. I’ll just do whatever it takes to get the ‘W.’ I think winning is more important than anything individual.”
Although Myers Park fell seven points shy of victory, it still had to be a memorable night for Wallace, largely because it was emblematic of the kind of season he’s had in his final year in a Mustang uniform, during which he’s averaged 17.1 points per game.
He opened the game on fire, scoring in a variety of ways, from driving layups to mid-range jumpers to deep 3-pointers. He set teammates up for easy baskets, and, after South Meck appeared headed toward certain victory, Wallace led a comeback that made the Sabres fortunate to escape without a loss.
“Patrick’s had a huge impact on our team,” Mustangs coach Wes Hepler said. “He comes to play every night. He’s the ultimate competitor. He wants to win more than anybody on the floor. He hits big shots. He’s not afraid.”
Wallace has been virtually irreplaceable.
This season, Wallace has failed to reach double figures in scoring on just four occasions. The Mustangs, who have a 15-8 overall, lost three of those games.
Armed with a lethal all-around game and a 4.1 GPA, Wallace has garnered attention from college recruiters. He has a scholarship offer to play at Lenoir-Rhyne, and schools such as Brown, William & Mary and Navy have shown interest.
Wallace credits Hepler for much of his individual success this season.
“Coach Hepler’s given me a lot of freedom,” Wallace said. “Last year, I was a little limited. I mainly was just shooting the ball. Now I’m getting a little more freedom, playing point guard and shooting guard. As the point guard, I have the ball in my hands a little bit more, making plays off the dribble and not just shooting 3s. The majority of my shots last year were 3s – just catch and shoot. But I can do more this year, and that’s helped separate me.”