It won’t take Walker’s basketball team very long to make up for lost time.
After pushing the start of its season back to accommodate the arrival of players that were part of school’s football team – a group that comprises Walker’s starting five – the Wildcats are returning to Lake Charles to participate in one of the state’s premier events.
Walker will be one of four reigning state champions taking part in the 4th Annual Showdown in the Lake Basketball Classic hosted by Hamilton Christian Academy.
The Wildcats (1-0) face Red River (5-0), a Class 2A state semifinalist, in their first game Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Hamilton Christian.
“The bracket is loaded with teams that won state and several that were runners-up, it’s just a phenomenal field,” Walker coach Anthony Schiro said. “It’s a great early-season tool to really see where you’re at this point and to see what you need to work on in a big-time atmosphere. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be competitive and it’s going to be hard.”
For a team that opened the season on Monday with an 80-57 victory at Ponchatoula, Walker faces the prospect of playing four games over a three-day period to win the tournament’s championship.
“It’s a concern,” Schiro said. “You could tell the guys were a little tired at practice Tuesday, so we went light on Wednesday going into the tournament. The guys coming off the football field a couple of weeks ago, they’re still not quite in the best basketball playing shape they can be in, but we’ll go and give it our best shot and do whatever it takes.”
Walker will be joined in the 16-team field by 2017-18 state champions Scotlandville, The Dunham School and Rayville. There are also three state runners-up with Woodlawn-Shreveport, Peabody and Landry-Walker.
Walker, which defeated Landry-Walker 62-57 in overtime to win the school’s first state title in March, is on the same side of the bracket with the Charging Buccaneers and could meet in Saturday’s semifinals at 1:30 which would be held at Lake Charles-Boston.
“We’ve both got to make it,” Schiro said. “Just getting there would be an accomplishment. We don’t want to go there just to have a good showing. We want to go and win it. Winning that tournament would be pretty close to a state championship when you look at the teams that are in it. It’s a quality field.”
The school’s first state crown annexed by last year’s Walker team has raised the profile of the program by which this year’s team will benefit.
Not only will the Wildcats play in the Hamilton Christian event, but they’ve also been invited to participate in other such prestigious statewide tournaments as the St. Thomas More-Sunkist Shootout in Lafayette, Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans and one-game showcase against Sophie B. Wright in the MLK Classic at Xavier in New Orleans.
“I told the guys that we don’t have a lot of home games on our schedule this year,” Schiro said. “Some of the things we were invited to, these are things that you don’t get to do every year. It’s preparing us for district and when you get ready for the playoffs. All these games leading up to that help when you look at the teams we’re playing.
“It’s an honor to be looked upon in the state as one of the better teams and getting invited to these big tournaments,” Schiro said. “That’s where we want our program to be. We want to stay at that level. That’s the expectation at this point. Those guys that played last year kind of paved the way for us. A lot of credit goes to them as well.”
Walker, DSHS girls serving as host sights
Both Walker High and Denham Springs High will serve as host sights for the St. Michael the Archangel/Lady Warrior Tournament which begins Thursday through Saturday.
The Lady Cats will face West Ouachita at 6:00 p.m., while the Lady Jackets face Benton at 6 p.m. at Grady Hornsby Gym.
Albany will also be at Walker High on Friday to face St. James at 4:30 p.m. and West Ouachita at 7:30. Walker meets Fontainebleau at 6 p.m.
DSHS has a doubleheader Friday, facing Parkview Baptist at 4:30 and John Curtis at 7:30 p.m.
Albany opens play at Walker High on Saturday with a 9 a.m. matchup with Dutchtown and comes back at noon with West Feliciana.
Walker takes on St. Katharine Drexel at 10:30 a.m.
DSHS concludes play Saturday at 10:30 a.m. against Ellender.
No. 3 DSHS soccer team headed to big tourney
Denham Springs, fresh off its 9-1 mercy-rule win over Live Oak, takes part in the prestigious COPA Acadiana at Moore Park in Carencro.
The Yellow Jackets are grouped with Lafayette High on Friday at 6 p.m. and St. Amant on Saturday at 11 a.m.
The championship of the event is scheduled at 7 p.m. Saturday.