ZACHARY - Thanks to some tenacious defense and timely free throw shooting, Walker survived another back-and-forth tussle in District 4-5A action.
Make that two road wins to begin league play.
Led by another big scoring night from star guard Jalen Cook, the Wildcats stormed into Zachary and left victorious with a 70-60 win Friday against the Broncos.
After dropping 38 points in Tuesday’s district opener against Scotlandville, Cook responded with 33 points against Zachary, which was held to 42 percent shooting against a rugged Walker ball club.
The Wildcats (21-9, 2-0) got another 19 points from Brian Thomas and a combined 16 points from Trent Montgomery, Donald Butler and Graham Smith, who hit four clutch free throws in the fourth quarter to help Walker seal the win.
Walker coach Anthony Schiro credited his players for never letting up whenever the Broncos made a run back in the game.
“Zachary does a great job of getting to their spots and having a hand up in people’s faces,” he said. “They slide over in help-side rotations and make it tough, but luckily I have some guys that can make some big shots when we really needed it. I’m proud of our guys for hanging in there and not letting Zachary get the lead on us. Zachary is a tough ball club and is well coached, and they don’t make anything easy.”
The win was the sixth in seven games for Walker, which jumped out to an 10-2 lead over Zachary early in the first quarter. But the Broncos (15-12, 1-1) responded with a 13-4 run themselves, with Dylan Jackson, Jeremiah Hollins, Christopher Hilton and Michael Stubblefield all contributing points in the early rally.
Trailing 15-14 after the first quarter, Walker outscored Zachary 17-10 in the second quarter, thanks to 9 points from Cook, who highlighted his flurry with a step-back 3-pointer late in the period.
Less than a minute remained when Cook found teammate Kevin Brady wide open under the basket for an easy layup, but Hollins drained a long jumper as the halftime buzzer sounded to trim Walker’s lead to 31-25 at the break.
Thomas and Cook carried the scoring load for Walker in the third quarter and outscored Zachary’s entire team by themselves, 14-13, as the Wildcats took a 45-38 advantage into the fourth.
Cook put Walker up by double digits when he hit another step-back 3-pointer to start the fourth, but Chaun Moore’s one-handed slam at the other end ignited the home crowd and forced a Walker timeout with 6:43 to go in the game.
After trading baskets for a few possessions, Zachary was finally able to climb back in the game when Darian Ward connected on a pair of free throws to make it 52-52 with 4:35 remaining.
But that was as close as the Broncos would get as Walker took control from there.
Cook put his team ahead for good with a layup in traffic on the next possession, and that was followed by consecutive layups from Thomas, including an acrobatic and-1 finger roll with 3:28 in the game.
After a Zachary bucket pulled the Broncos back within four, the Wildcats ripped off another 6-0 burst to go ahead 64-54. Cook and Smith then drained their last four free throws to ice the game, finishing a perfect 12-for-12 from the line in the final period.
The loss snapped a two-game win streak for the Broncos, who Schiro said always present a tough matchup.
“Zachary did a great job of never quitting and getting themselves back in the game and keeping it close,” he said. “But every time they made a run, we answered back. We hit free throws and got some big rebounds late and took care of the ball, and we were able to put it away.”