WALKER – Walker High freshman Warren Young Jr. was finally able to smile again.
After a two-week absence because of concussion, Young enjoyed his first extensive minutes for the Wildcats, coming off the bench to key a second-quarter surge that went a long way in his team’s 74-53 victory non-district win over Live Oak.
“I was able to step up big and help my team,” said Young, who scored a career-high 19 points in three quarters of play. “It felt good.”
Young, who was injured during a Jan. 14 loss at East Ascension, had to complete a five-step concussion protocol which enabled him to briefly return and score two points in Tuesday’s 75-49 win over Carencro.
With senior point guard Jalen Cook on the bench with a pair of fouls and second-leading scorer Brian Thomas scoreless the first 11 minutes, Young scored 13 points – highlighted by three 3-pointers – during a devastating 24-5 run that gave the Wildcats a comfortable 40-22 halftime lead.
“It’s hard,” said Young, who missed two games. “Last week I was struggling and scared. I couldn’t make any shots in practice. This week, I stepped it up and got my shot back, got my rhythm back.”
Young was one of four players for Walker (19-6) in double figures. Cook and Thomas both finished with 16 points and Donald Butler Jr. 11 for the Wildcats, who shot 51% (26 of 51) and made 6-of-13 attempts from 3-point range.
“The plan was to get him in and get him out and he responded well,” Walker coach Anthony Schiro said of Young. “He was playing so well in this game. We let him get into his groove and I think at this point he’s pretty much back almost full strength. Getting him going again is going to be a key for us down the stretch.”
Live Oak John Capps, whose team hosts Walker Feb. 11 in a District 4-5A game, said he would have liked his team’s chances coming into the game had Cook and Thomas combined for 32 points.
Young spoiled those plans not only with his scoring, but also fed fellow freshman Ja’Cory Thomas for a key 3-pointer from the corner during a 10-0 spurt that enabled Walker to snap a 20-20 tie.
The Wildcats, who defeated the Eagles earlier this season 84-44 in the parish tournament, wound up five of their six 3-pointers during the quarter which Young capped with back-to-back 3-pointers in the last 68 seconds before halftime.
“I told coach Schiro if his supporting cast plays the way they did in this game, they’re going to be even tougher,” Capps said. “I thought we actually did a good job on Cook and Thomas. Credit to them. We’ve got to do a better job. I saw some positives, hopefully we can build on this and get ready for Central.”
Capps liked the early signs shown by his team when Live Oak (10-13) opened an early 11-7 lead on Ahmad Pink’s driving layup, compelling Schiro to call timeout.
“I told them before the game that we wanted to get off to a quick start,” Schiro said. “We kind of did and kind of relaxed a bit. We slept-walked through the first quarter. We stayed in the game and then picked up the intensity level and changed defenses a couple of times. Live Oak missed some shots which triggered us getting out in transition.”
Lawrence Pierre, who led all scorers with 22 points, provided Live Oak with its final lead of the game – 20-17 – less than a minute into the second quarter.
Three-pointers from Young and Ja’Cory Thomas ignited Walker’s 10-0 run while Young dropped in a pair of 3-pointers to close out the quarter where the Wildcats made 7-of-13 shots compared to 2-of-14 for the Eagles.
“For three quarters we were good,” said Capps, whose team shot 35% (21 of 59) overall and was 3-of-25 on 3-point shots. “You get outscored 24-5 in a quarter against them, you can’t do that. They’re too good to make a comeback.”
Walker built a 56-36 lead after the third quarter and led by as many as 27 points (69-42) with 4:24 remaining when Brian Thomas knocked down a pair of free throws and drove in for a layup.
“Those two guys stepping up hitting shots was big time for us,” Schiro said of Young and Ja’Cory Thomas. “When Jalen and Brian are coming downhill the whole the defense is going to look at them. It’s going to set up opportunities for those guys and if they can come up big like they did we’re going to be in good shape.”