BATON ROUGE – When Walker High coach Anthony Schiro finished giving his team instructions for the start of fourth quarter, he was joined on the bench by a couple of popular faces.
With his team firmly in control of Monday’s Woodlawn High Summer Basketball League game with Hammond, Schiro was able to rest established veterans Jalen Cook and Brian Thomas the final quarter while a younger group of Wildcats finished up an impressive 49-20 victory.
Walker looked extremely sharp during the three quarters Schiro played his starters.
The Wildcats never trailed, led by nine after the first quarter, 12 by halftime and bolstered that margin to 26 (44-18) by the end of the third quarter – a stretch in they shot 51.4 percent from the field.
“I thought we got out in transition really well,” Schiro said. “I think some of the younger guys understand that if they get out in front of Brian and Jalen, and they’re coming down the floor and they’re open, Brian and Jalen know how to find them.
“On the flip side, Brian and Jalen have the luxury of getting it to those guys and knowing they can do some things with it,” Schiro said. “It’s always a work in progress but I thought we got out in transition well, I thought our defense looked pretty decent.”
Precise ball movement, long a staple of Walker’s motion offense, led to an early 9-2 lead with sophomore forward Donald Butler producing seven of those points with freshman Warren Young Jr. providing a pair of assists.
The Wildcats also converted a turnover into an easy basket when Cook found Thomas on a lob before Cook added a pair of free throws and Kedric Brown added a drive at the buzzer.
“These guys are understanding that we have four or five guys on the court that can do some things,” Schiro said. “They’re not hesitant to make that extra pass. They’re not hesitant to get it to the next guy knowing he can make something or if he doesn’t, he’s going to move it to the next guy.”
Butler, who scored 12 of his team-high 14 points in the first half, made it 20-5 with back-to-back baskets that included a pair driving layups, the first producing a three-point play, before Walker concluded a 23-11 halftime lead on a corner 3-pointer from Jasper Turner, courtesy of assist from Young.
“We tell him to always be ready and move to an area where you’re going to be open because those guys will find you,” Schiro said of Butler. “He was the beneficiary of a lot of good passes, a lot of good ball movement.”
Walker, which limited Hammond to 5 of 33 shooting through three quarters, opened the third quarter with a 7-0 run and increased its lead to 19 (30-11) on Cook’s three-point play following a steal and assist from Young.
Cook added another three-point play, a 3-pointer and drive to finish with 12 points with Thomas adding a fast break slam and Young a layin to conclude the third quarter.
Jalen Mitchell added a free throw with 5:44 to go for a 45-18 cushion.
“I’m proud to know the guys are sharing the ball and moving the ball and how much pressure does that put on the defense when you’re moving the ball that quickly,” Schiro said. “The further we get along this summer and into the season the better that’s going to get.”