BATON ROUGE – Walker basketball coach Anthony Schiro didn’t have to wait until the fall to see how his team would react to having its back squarely against a wall.
Behind the hot hand of guard Lawrence Pierre, Live Oak raced out to a pair of nine-point leads, the latter leading Schiro to implore his team during a timeout to play with greater energy, especially on the defensive end of the floor.
“Getting down early was disappointing,” Schiro said. “Not to take anything away from Live Oak because Lawrence hit some shots and their team was playing hard. I didn’t think early we were matching their energy.”
Walker scored the last six points of the first half to trail by three at halftime, pulled even after three quarters and took over in the fourth quarter for a 43-33 victory Thursday over Live Oak in the Woodlawn High School Summer League.
The Wildcats went on a 10-0 run over the first three minutes of the fourth quarter which Jalen Cook capped with consecutive baskets en route to a team-high 19 points.
Three different players scored during Walker’s stretch of 10 unanswered points with Brian Thomas and Donald Butler each scoring inside with freshman Warren Young Jr. converting a steal into a pair of free throws – extending the Wildcats’ lead to 38-28 with 3:12 remaining in the game.
Thomas added eight and Young six for the Wildcats.
“When we did match their energy, got down on defense and guarded I thought the whole fourth quarter was better for us,” said Schiro, whose team outscored Live Oak 22-9 in the second half. “It led to some easy baskets in transition because our defense is always a catalyst for us.”
Pierre, who had been held without a field goal in the second half, stopped Walker’s surge with a 3-pointer with 1:33 to go and added a field goal with 18 seconds showing to account for the final score.
Pierre led all scorers with 20 points, 15 of which came in the first half.
“They took him away,” Live Oak coach John Capps said of Walker’s defense against Pierre. “We’ll have something for that. We didn’t do a good job of running him off screens or running sets and we’ll get there. He was awesome in the first half and then they made an adjustment. We’ll be OK. We played hard and played together.”
Pierre scored seven of his team’s first nine points in a 9-3 first-quarter surge and added a pair of free throws with 2.4 seconds left for a 13-11 lead after the opening quarter.
The Eagles started to gain separation in the second quarter, making three of their first five shots that included a pair of 3-pointers from Pierre and Bryan Donahue, followed by a three-point play from Pierre following an offensive rebound.
Darian Ricard’s basket after a third shot on the possession helped Live Oak, which shot 47 percent in the half, maintain a 24-15 advantage.
A steal by Cook sparked a 6-0 run to close the half for Walker which trailed 24-21 when the game was twice tied, the latter 28-28 after Live Oak’s CJ Davis’ free throw.
“I told the guys they were right there with the best team in the state,” Capps said. “For three quarters they were fine and obviously we’ve got to finish. We’re not satisfied, but I’m not overly angry about a game on May 30.”
Walker, which shot 50 percent in the second half compared to 26.3 in the first half, made its first four shots and opened a 38-28 lead on Cook’s spin move in the lane.
When Pierre answered with a 3-pointer with 1:33 left, it stopped a stretch of 11 straight missed shots for the Eagles.
“We know that Jalen and Brian are fiercely competitive and they’re going to dig deep and the younger group is to,” Schiro said. “When they see how the older guys are and the intensity level they have, they’re going to feed off that.”