GIRLS BASKETBALL: Emerging leader

Muir’s Wallace steps up

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Above: Muir High School guard Cherrish Wallace. (Staff photo Walt Mancini)



By Scott Galetti, Staff Writer
PASADENA – As a junior, Muir High School’s Cherrish Wallace was a major contributor to the Mustangs’ girls basketball team.
She also had 2006-07 Star-News Player of the Year Darxia Morris to rely on.
This season, Morris was at UCLA, and Wallace emerged from being the second or third option in the lineup to the team leader.
With a scholarship already secured to play at highly successful Baylor University, Wallace played focused and care-free throughout her senior season, leading the Mustangs to the Pacific League championship and a No. 2 seed in the CIF-Southern Section Division I-A playoffs.
She may not have earned a ring in the Southern Section or State playoffs, but Wallace is the 2007-08 Star-News girls basketball Player of the Year.
Flanked by ultra-talented teammates, including Eliza Pierre and Brittany Henderson, Wallace, a first-team selection to this year’s SCIBCA Coaches All Division I-A team, was still the focal point of the Mustangs.
And when she did well, her team followed suit.
“Besides being our leader in points and defense and directing our offense, she was very important to our team,” Muir coach Gary Johnson said. “Her leadership and passion for the game was very important to the team.”
After finishing second in scoring a year ago, the speedy point guard led Muir in scoring by pouring in 12.6 points per game in an offense that was built on balance.
She was second behind Pierre in assists (4.7 per game), and in steals with 87 (2.9 per contest).
“She did what we asked her to do,” Johnson said. “If we wanted her to score 20, she could. But she sacrificed her game to lead us in assists and defense, and that basically is what a point guard is all about.
“I think that’s what Baylor wants, an all-around player.”
Added Wallace: “I knew it was going to be a big load and they were going to expect a lot from me, so I needed to step to the plate.”
Wallace stepped up and scored a season-high 24 points against King in the Division I-A semifinals and had two games with 21 points.
Even when she didn’t pile on the points, however, her presence was felt in the Mustangs’ offense.
Against Mount Miguel in the State Division III quarterfinals, Wallace didn’t attempt a field goal, but still contributed by going 11 for 11 at the free-throw line in a 43-35 victory.
“It’s important to see that as a defensive player who has to guard the opponent’s top player and take the ball up the floor, she’s able to contribute in many ways to the team when she’s not taking shots,” Johnson said. “It’s a plus for our team.”
The senior guard made great strides throughout her career, especially those that saw her mature into a team leader.
She credits her team and Johnson for her development as a complete player.
“I felt that I’ve progressed through my four years, and Coach Gary came in during my junior year and stepped it up from being an assistant coach,” Wallace said. “We had a great season and my teammates helped us get this far.”
Although Muir fell short of its goal to win a Southern Section Division I-A and State Division III title, the Mustangs’ team captain will remember the experiences she shared with her teammates as she moves on to the collegiate level.
Wallace will be making contributions for Kim Mulkey’s Baylor Bears next season after receiving a full ride to play in Waco, Texas.
“She’s a very good kid and a student athlete,” Johnson said. “You have to have good grades to go to Baylor.
“That’s what a successful student athlete at John Muir High School is all about, going to college.”