WALKER – The objective may not be the same, but Walker High is still chasing something in the final week of the regular season.
With the District 4-5A championship already having been secured by Scotlandville, the Wildcats are trying to compile as many wins as possible in hopes of raising their final power rating going into the start of next week’s Class 5A state playoffs.
Coach Anthony Schiro tweaked his starting lineup Tuesday to pay tribute to his four-member senior class playing in their final regular season home game and the results were just as resounding with the Wildcats taking an 81-51 victory over Denham Springs.
Walker (21-9, 2-2 in district) looks to improve upon its unofficial power rating of No. 10 with a road game Friday at No. 9 Zachary (24-8, 2-2) at 7 p.m.
“You’ve got to get wins,” Schiro said. “We’ve got one game left. This was a big win for us and Zachary’s going to be a real big game for us. They’re a great team with a great record. That would give us a little bump in the power rankings if we could go over there and win that game.”
Walker, which shot 55% (30 of 55) had six players score in double figures with Brian Thomas – the only non-senior to start – wound up with 18 points and four highlight-reel dunks after missing the majority of the first quarter with two quick fouls.
Sophomore Donald Butler Jr. had 11 of his 15 in the first half, while seniors Jalen Cook scored 11 and Kevin Brady had 10. Freshman Warren Young Jr. also had 10.
“Those seniors did a great job of coming in and playing with energy,” said Schiro, who also started seniors Kerry Flowers and Keondre Brown, who combined for 11 points. “When the young guys got their opportunity, I thought they gave us a lift off the bench early in the game. It lets us know that maybe that down the stretch in the playoffs we can give some people some opportunities and it may even give us a spark off the bench.”
Walker gained control with a 20-2 run over the last six minutes of the first quarter, effectively wiping out a 5-0 deficit to take a 20-7 lead which included a pair of free throws from Cook and Butler’s inside basket.
Butler provided the Wildcats with a big lift in the opening half, scoring a team-high 11 points and also providing a couple of blocked shots on defense.
“When he’s locked in, he’s a player that can finish around the basket for us,” Schiro said of Butler. “For whatever reasons he’s had a little struggle lately. I put my arm around him the other day and told him, ‘I know what you can do and what you’re capable of.’ I thought he came in focused and got it done.”
Denham Springs’ (11-21, 0-4) early uprising was derailed somewhat when the Yellow Jackets lost sophomore point guard T.J. Magee with three fouls during Walker’s massive run to end the first.
Butler’s slam dunk made it 32-11 with just under four minutes left in the second quarter when Denham Springs reduced that to 38-19 at halftime on Elijah Gilmore’s free throw.
The Yellow Jacket showed some fight out of the locker room, going on an 8-0 run on consecutive baskets from Kyle Williams, Gilmore saved a loose ball to Magee for a layup and JaBarry Fortenberry followed up his own miss, forcing Shiro to call time out with team leading 40-27 at the 5:07 mark.
“I was really disappointed with our effort, Denham Springs coach Kevin Caballero said. “Sure, we were overmatched, no doubt about it. Effort is all that I ask and maybe they spent too much against Live Oak (59-57 double overtime loss). I don’t want to make excuses. Walker’s good.”
Gilmore and Jordan Reams topped Denham Springs in scoring with 14 points apiece. The Yellow Jackets shot 39% (21 of 54) were just 1-of-11 from 3-point range and committed 11 of their 16 turnovers in the first half.
Thomas ignited an 11-0 surge, scoring on a driving layup to start and finishing with a slam dunk. In between, Cook added five points and Butler another inside basket for a commanding 54-29 advantage with 1:19 showing in the third quarter.
Walker’s biggest lead came at 81-47 with 1:36 remaining when Brady converted back-to-back layups.
“I thought we played a great game,” Schiro said. “That can propel us into a couple of good days of preparation and getting focused for Friday with a big matchup at Zachary.”