BATON ROUGE – The next time Walker High faces Madison Prep will be in nearly three weeks.
And the Wildcats can’t wait to host the Chargers on Jan. 7.
By the time Walker reached Saturday night’s championship game against Madison Prep Academy in the Rumble on the River, the Wildcats were nearly on fumes but put up quite a showing.
It just wasn’t enough to keep up with Madison Prep’s early outside shooting, offensive rebounding and balanced scoring which resulted in the Wildcats dropping a 93-88 decision.
“They came out with fresh legs attacking us,” said Walker guard Jalen Cook, who scored a season-high 46 points. “We played a lot of basketball this week. There’s no reason to hang our heads. We’ve just got to come back, get back in the gym, rest our legs and see them in January.”
Three hours after having to hold off Crescent City, 81-77, in the tournament semifinal Walker (9-3) squared off against Madison Prep, which reached the final with a 54-39 win over Southern Lab. The Wildcats surrendered their most points this season in consecutive games.
“It was a great tournament for us,” said Walker coach Anthony Schiro, whose team had a seven-game win streak snapped. “We got three great wins and we played some of the top teams in this tournament leading up to this game. We were tired, we couldn’t get to the right spot on defense and couldn’t close out as hard as we normally would. They played earlier and it’s no excuse. Our games were a little faster paced.”
There was one true turning point and it took place in the first quarter when there were three lead changes and pair of ties when Madison Prep closed on a 7-1 run for a 22-14 lead.
Warren Young Jr. gathered a loose ball and scored inside, drawing the Wildcats to 22-16, the closest they would get until the final buzzer.
MPA’s leading scorer Dezeil Perkins, one of five double-digit scorers, led the Chargers with 25 points and had 18 points on the strength of five 3-pointers in the opening half.
Walker cut into a 35-20 deficit when Cook scored 10 of his team’s 12 points in the final two minutes and Brian Thomas, after a steal, made a 12-footer at the buzzer that drew the Wildcats to within 41-32 at halftime.
“I was proud of the guys for battling and never giving up,” Schiro said. “We kept cutting the lead, but the score at the end of the first quarter is kind of where it stayed the whole game.”
Walker, which shot 58% (29 of 51) overall, managed to slice MPA’s deficit to single digits on seven different occasions in the third quarter but trailed 68-57 heading into the fourth quarter.
UL-Monroe signee Elijah Tate heated up in the second half for MPA with 19 of his 22 points in the second half and the Chargers (who shot 58% and made nine 3-pointers) also received double-figure scoring from Jason Perry (15), Jordan Johnson (13) and Jalen Williams (11).
The next-to-last 3-pointer from Cook reduced MPA’s lead to 79-70 with 3:04 left when the Wildcats scored eight points in the last 27 seconds to account for the final score.
Thomas scored 15, Donald Butler 12 and Kedric Brown 11.
“There’s some big-time teams here and for us to get to the finals and play two games in a day, keep the (second) game close and sort of have a chance at the end, I’m proud of what we did,” Schiro said. “Those three wins are going to be a big boost for us and even this loss.”
Cook, who scored 36 in his team’s semifinal win, completed one of the most productive four-game stretches of his career with 170 points for a 42.5 scoring average.
“It adds a little more fuel,” Cook said of the rematch with MPA. “We’ll take this ‘L’ as a lesson. I think we got more positive out of this than a negative.”
Walker 81, Crescent City 77 (semifinal)
Cook scored 36 points, including four 3-pointers, and the Wildcats fended off a strong fourth-quarter charge before emerging victorious.
The Wildcats, who received 19 points from Thomas and 10 from Kevin Brady, led 37-35 at halftime which they stretched to 63-47 after three quarters.
Crescent City wound up outscoring Walker 30-18 in the final quarter.