BATON ROUGE -- Wednesday night's Woodlawn summer league basketball game between Walker and Lee was a tight contest throughout the first 2 ½ quarters.
And then it wasn’t.
After Lee pulled to within one point of Walker with less than three minutes left in the third quarter, the Wildcats turned on their afterburners and blew past the Patriots to take a 58-31 win at Woodlawn High.
Walker improved to 8-0 in league play, but the path to victory wasn’t a sure thing midway through the third quarter. After trailing 26-19 at halftime, Lee forced four turnovers and scored the first six points of the third quarter.
During the run, Walker was 0-for-3 from the floor, and when Madison Moore scored off an offensive rebound, Lee trailed 26-25 with 2:41 left in the quarter.
Walker immediately stepped up the pace.
Senior guard Jalen Cook, who committed to LSU on Tuesday, made a pair of 3-pointers and scored Walker’s next 10 points. Kedric Brown added two free throws with three seconds left, and Walker took a 38-29 lead into the fourth quarter.
Lee’s only basket of the fourth quarter came from Moore, whose inside bucket with 3:43 left to play cut the Patriots' deficit to 42-31. Walker went on to outscore Lee 20-2 in the final quarter.
“Coach (Anthony Schiro) told us we needed to play better in the second half,” said Cook, who led Walker with 21 points, five assists and three steals.
“We just turned our energy up … When games are close, we take it to another gear, and that was the outcome.”
Walker’s other team leader, Brian Thomas, scored six points and had two steals. His play helped open up the baseline for Donald Butler, who got assists from four different players on his way to 14 points.
“Donald is going to benefit a lot from Jalen and Brian because a lot of defenses will key on those two,” Schiro said. “Not that they won’t try to guard Donald, but he’s going to be the recipient of some nice dump-down passes. His scoring average is up, which is a great sign for us.”
In the first quarter, Walker fell behind 4-2, but fought back forcing four turnovers in an 8-0 run. The Wildcats' closing flurry included Cook feeding Thomas for an easy basket inside, and Walker led 14-8 after one quarter.
Cook’s steal and run-out basket made it 18-10 early in the second quarter. Later, Cook hit a 3-pointer and had two assists to help Walker take a 26-14 lead. Lee scored the last five points of the half to get within 26-19.
“I thought we started out pretty good (in the first half), but then we got a little sloppy,” Schiro said. “In the third quarter it got a little close, and I told the guys, ‘Defense is where we’re going to pick it up.’”
The defensive play helped Walker score easy baskets, and the Wildcats finished the game having made 25 of 38 shots (66 percent).
“I thought our defense really bothered Lee in the fourth quarter, and that got us out in transition,” Schiro said. “Our defense led to some easy baskets on offense.”