DENHAM SPRINGS – The Merry-Go-Round that’s been Walker High’s starting lineup the past two weeks got two familiar faces back on board and lost another in Tuesday’s nondistrict matchup with arch-rival Denham Springs.
The Wildcats had Brian Thomas and Donald Butler Jr. back from injuries but welcomed the breakout performance of freshman Kedric Brown in a 77-53 victory at Grady Hornsby Gymnasium.
“I was making plays for my team,” said Brown, who scored 11 of his career-high 19 points in the second half. “I know Brian and Jalen (Cook) are going to do what they’ve got to for us to win, so I’ve got to step up and have fun.”
Walker (16-6) had dropped consecutive road games to Catholic High and East Ascension without Thomas and Butler. The Wildcats, who host the Yellow Jackets (10-14) in a District 4-5A game Feb. 18, were without starting guard Warren Young Jr. (concussion) and reserve forward Ja’Cory Thomas (illness).
Walker never trailed in building a double-digit lead midway through the first quarter and never let Denham Springs any closer than eight points the rest of the way.
The Wildcats shot a sizzling 63% (31 of 49) from the field and also made 63% (10 of 16) of 3-pointers.
Cook and Brown each had four 3-point baskets with Walker’s senior point guard matching Brown’s 19 points, while Thomas added 16 and Keondre Brown nine and Butler eight.
“It made us come out and play tougher and stronger,” Kedric Brown said of his team’s two-game losing streak. “We got hit with adversity and lost two big games to Catholic and EA. We could have won those but had mistakes in the games. We got back to practice and put the work in and worked hard on defense.”
Denham Springs was led by sophomore guard Jordan Reams who made five 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 21 points. Sophomore point guard T.J. Magee added 15 for the Yellow Jackets who shot 34% (17 of 50) from the floor.
“I thought we looked a little weak in the knees to start, the moment, the setting,” Denham Springs coach Kevin Caballero said. “The atmosphere was great, what a high school game should be. I thought Jordan played as hard as he could. I was proud of him. When you’re making a couple of shots it makes it a little easier.”
Magee brought Denham Springs within 25-17 on a 3-pointer with 4:33 remaining until halftime when Keondre Brown answered with a 3-pointer and Kedric Brown went to work by scoring his team’s next eight points.
That stretch included a pair of Brown’s 3-pointers to help the Wildcats, who played the majority of the second quarter without Cook because of foul trouble, open a 36-23 lead which became 38-27 at halftime.
“The plan was good,” Caballero said of his team’s defense. “We weren’t planning on Brown hitting four 3s. You’ve got to pick your poison. Do you want him (Cook) to have 50 or take your chances with the other guys? You have to tip your hat to the kid. For a freshman he made some big shots.”
Walker ramped up its defensive effort to begin the second half, converting three straight Denham Springs turnovers into six points to fuel a 14-2 run out of the locker room for a 52-29 advantage.
Five different players contributed during that surge with Thomas scoring four points and Cook adding five more, getting a 3-pointer to bounce twice off the rim and fall through the net.
“We did a better job defensively of getting in a stance and jumping to the ball, rebounding and not giving up easy baskets,” Schiro said. “Just making them earn what they got and that led to some outlets and easy transition points for us.”
Reams hit consecutive 3-pointers that drew Denham Springs within 55-37 with just under two minutes left in the third quarter when Butler closed it out with a pair of free throws.
Kedric Brown scored Walker’s first five points of the fourth quarter and the Wildcats went on to lead by as many as 26 points (69-43) on Cook’s corner 3-pointer with 4:50 to go.
“I just wanted to be a threat and help out Jalen and Brian,” Kedric Brown said. “They’re going to make plays so as a team we’ve got to step up and make plays with them and take some of the pressure off their shoulders.”