WALKER - The ninth-seeded Walker Wildcats began their quest for a third straight trip to the Class 5A championship game with an emphatic 80-53 win on Friday over No. 24 Central Lafourche in a first-round playoff game at Walker Gymnasium.
Walker (24-8) now goes on the road to face No. 8 Comeaux, a 40-25 winner over No. 25, in next Tuesday’s regional round in Lafayette.
LSU signee Jalen Cook led Walker with 38 points. Donald Butler Jr. added 15 and Brian Thomas, Jr. chipped in 13, including three rim-rattling dunks.
The Wildcats shot 58% for the game (32 of 55).
Walker started the game on a 17-2 run and built a 29-6 lead by the end of the first quarter. Cook scored 11 of his game-high 38 points in the opening period with the Wildcats utilizing their pressure defense to create turnovers and easy baskets in transition.
“The first quarter was great,” Walker coach Anthony Schiro said. “I thought we came out with a lot of energy and a lot of defensive intensity and that’s what we have been preaching. We want to get down and guard, keep them out of the middle, limit them to one shot, and get out in transition, and I felt we did that.”
Walker made 12 of 17 shots (70.5%) in the first period while holding Central Lafourche to only eight field goal attempts.
Walker cooled off somewhat in the second quarter, but the Wildcats still lead 40-22 at halftime.
Central Lafourche made its most serious threat late in the third quarter when they cut the Walker led to 12 points after an 8-0 run.
That’s when Cook took it upon himself to turn the game back in Walker’s favor.
Cook scored eight points in a 40-second span that included two 3-pointers and a driving layup in transition. The burst put his team back up by 20 points and quieted any hopes of a Trojan comeback.
“I felt like I had to make plays to put the game away,” said Cook, who played in his final home game. “We got kind of got sloppy and they went on a run, so we had to go on our own run and get the momentum back.”
Now, the Wildcats will take their post-season show on the road, which will be a new challenge for the veterans on the squad.
“We have had a lot of experience with our older group, but it will be a different road for them because the last two years we have had all of our playoff games at home,” Schiro said. “It is going to be a little different challenge for us this year, but we will definitely draw on the experience of Jalen and Brian. Those guys are being great leaders for us, and I think that experience will help down the road.”
Schiro certainly believes that his team’s style of play can “travel” as well.
“We feel like if we play great defense that it will lead to easy offense,” he said. “We like to play fast. We don’t think other teams can sustain that pace with us, no matter where we play.”