WILLIAMSTON, Mich. (WLNS) – It’s been less than a month since the Williamston basketball team defeated Grand Rapids Catholic Central in overtime, 68-65, to win the Division 2 state championship. The feeling of victory is starting to settle in for the Hornets, after ending an 82-year championship drought.

In that game, senior guard J Wallace was playing for more than himself. He was playing for his family. In September of 2020, when Wallace was junior, his father Al lost his battle with cancer.

“He was the last person I talked to before games, and he gave me a pep talk and was the first person I talked with about my games afterward,” Wallace said. “One of the last conversations had with my dad, he was like ‘keep pushing towards your goals.'”

Wallace has thought about his dad a number of times since he became a state champion in the sport his father introduced him to. And when the final horn went off on March 26, the first person Wallace ran to was head coach Tom Lewis.

“When that horn went off, and I saw the video, he hit me like a linebacker,” Lewis said. “He ran right over to me and I’ll never forget that.”

“I kind of look at him like my second dad. I mean, no one will be my dad, but he’s the closest thing I have. He’s been there for me, not just in basketball, but in all aspects of my life,” Wallace said.

Once high school is over for Wallace, he’ll be moving to Ohio to play basketball at Toledo as a preferred walk-on. During the challenging process of becoming a Division 1 basketball player, Wallace was taking care of his younger siblings, Luke and Emery.

“It definitely stresses me out a little bit because I want to give Luke the opportunities I had growing up,” Wallace said. “It’s also about helping my mom out because she still works and she has a lot on her plate.”