Darius Hampton Ray Whitley

Walker guard Darius Hampton pushes the ball past DSHS counterpart Ray Whitley.

Ralph Melancon | The News

DENHAM SPRINGS -- For most of the first two quarters Friday, Walker and Denham Springs High swapped control of the tempo in a parish showdown at Hornsby Gym and not a whole lot was settled.

The Wildcats got things sped up for a while, and then the Yellow Jackets made the game more methodical.

Once the third quarter rolled around, though, Walker found a groove and never seemed uncomfortable the rest of the night.

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Jalen Perkins

Walker's Jalen Perkins hammers home a slam-dunk in the third quarter Friday against Denham Springs High. Perkins scored 14 points to help lead the Wildcats past the Yellow Jackets 74-54.

A third-quarter Wildcats’ scoring explosion and Denham’s shooting woes added up to a 74-54 Wildcats’ victory to close out the next-to-last week of the 2017-18 regular season.

“That third quarter, we all started hitting shots and the defense got us going, and that’s always how it is for us,” WHS senior Dalton Moore said. “We just wanted to come out and let them know that we were more prepared for them this time. The last game against them shouldn’t have been that close, so we felt like we had something to prove.”

Done.

Walker (26-4, 3-1 District 4-5A) came at the Jackets in every direction possible in the third period with six players scoring, five getting to the free-throw line and very few shots not finding the bottom of the net.

The Cats outscored DSHS (21-8, 2-2) 23-9 in the decisive quarter to turn a 10-point halftime cushion into a 52-28 blowout.

Jalen Perkins lit the fuse when he bombed in a 3-pointer on an inside-out pass from Josh Cook on Walker’s first possession after halftime. Jalen Cook swished two foul shots, Darius Hampton scored on a dribble-drive and Perkins grabbed a feed from Hampton and hammered home a thunderous slam-dunk from the baseline for a 38-23 advantage.

“The challenge coming out of halftime was how many defensive stops could we get,” Walker coach Anthony Schiro said. “Coming out in the third quarter, we really took control of the game and we triggered it on defense.”

It got worse for the Jackets from there.

Denham coach Kevin Caballero called a timeout to try and dampen the boisterous Walker side of the crowd after Perkins’ tomahawk slam, but the Jackets remained mired in a drought of 4:09 without a point and 4:13 without a made field goal.

Much like a loss at Zachary, Denham’s shooting touch disappeared for most of the middle two quarters: The Jackets missed 14-of-20 in those 16 minutes after starting the game 6-for-10.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats kept attacking the DSHS defense. Le Davis scored in transition, Dalton Moore cranked in a trey and Perkins made a pair of foul shots to stretch the lead to 43-23 and prompt Caballero to call another timeout.

“I don’t know who’s going to beat them when they shoot the ball like that,” Caballero said. “Our guys did what we asked them to do. We wanted to make (Walker) penetrate, wall up on them and make kick it to shooters. We did that and they just made shots. Everybody made shots.”

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Ray Whitley Trent Montgomery

Denham Spring High's Ray Whitley leads his team into the playoffs Friday vs. Covington.

Indeed, the Wildcats were tough to slow down, let alone stop.

With Denham alternating between a matchup zone and man and focused on taking away the paint, Walker generated offense from different places. As usual, Jalen Cook was the catalyst but he got plenty of help.

Besides one second-quarter lull, the Cats were on fire and knocked down 22-of-37 shots – 9-of-16 from 3-point territory – until midway through the fourth quarter when Schiro went to the bench.

“They shot lights out all night,” Denham guard Ray Whitley said. “There’s nothing you can really do about that . We played the game plan and made them kick. They kicked and they made shots. We played hard from start to finish.”

With the 24-point cushion after three quarters, Walker remained relentless.

The Wildcats produced points on six of their first seven offensive trips to begin the final period – all the damage done by Moore and Jalen Cook with 7 points apiece. The difference ballooned to 72-38 before Jackets’ junior Christian Knox provided a late-game silver lining and wowed the home crowd by jacking in four 3-pointers in five possessions in the closing minutes.

Much too little, much too late, though,

The opening stages of the game didn’t hint that the score would get lopsided in either direction.

Walker grabbed control quickly, ignited by Jalen Cook’s three treys in a span of 2:19 that created a 15-6 lead. Denham weathered that and a wave of its own early turnovers to patiently close the gap to 15-10 on Jay Henderson’s putback.

The Wildcats expanded a 17-12 first-quarter lead back to 23-14 on Jalen Cook’s back-to-back buckets 2:22 into the second frame, but after a timeout, the Jackets grabbed the tempo for several minutes.

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Christian Knox

DSHS guard Christian Knox launches a 3-point shot over Walker's Qaeshon Clark.

The Jackets clamped down on defense, contributing to Walker hitting a dry spell of 4:02 without a point after Moore connected on a 3 from the top of the key to give the Cats a 26-14 lead with 4:26 left before halftime.

During Walker’s drought, Denham chipped away but not enough: The Jackets generated only four points on six possessions while the Cats were scuffling, and only one field goal.

When Perkins ended Walker’s lull by pumping in a 3-pointer, the lead swelled to 29-19 and gave the Wildcats a jolt of confidence going into halftime.

“Perkins hit that 3 late or it could’ve been 3-4 point game at halftime,” Caballero said. “We missed a chance to get closer and then it kind of got away from us late in the third because they were just making shot after shot.”

Added Schiro, “Perk hit a big shot right there. We on a major scoring drought because we weren’t executing. That got the lead back out and luckily our defense was playing well and getting stops.”

Jalen Cook paced Walker with 22 points and his 8-for-11 shooting performance was emblematic of Walker’s shooting night. Moore added 15 points, Perkins produced 14 and Hampton dished out 8 assists.

Knox’s late flurry gave him a team-high 12 points. The five Jackets’ starters combined for only 29 points, led by Whitley’s 8.

Both teams are back in action in rivalry games on Tuesday: Walker plays at Live Oak at 7 p.m., looking to complete a three-game sweep against the Eagles, while DSHS is at Central at 7 p.m.

TIP-INS

  • With emotions running high on and off the court, there was only one minor flare-up. Late in the first half in a scrum for a loose ball, Jalen Cook and Denham reserve D.J. Williams went chest-to-chest briefly before older teammates separated them.
  • Walker recorded 17 assists on 25 made shots (68%), led by Hampton. Moore, Davis and Josh Cook chimed in with 2 apiece as seven of the 10 Wildcats who stepped on the court recorded at least one helper.
  • Perimeter shooting was a problem for Denham for the second game in a row. Whitley, Henderson and Micah Banks were each 0-for-3 from outside the 3-point arc. Until Knox’s late burst, the Jackets were 0-for-13 from deep.
  • The Wildcats’ defense clogged up the paint and didn’t give the DSHS big men much comfort. The trio of Xavier Miles, Dorsett Washington and Bryan Harvey launched only 8 field-goal attempts among them from the lane and finished with a combined 12 points.

WALKER 74, DSHS 54

Walker   17  12  23  22  --  74

DSHS      12    7    9  26  --  54

Walker (74) – Jalen Cook 8-11 2-2 22, Dalton Moore 4-7 4-4 15, Darius Hampton 1-2 0-1 2, Jalen Perkins 4-6 4-5 14, Josh Cook 1-1 2-2 4, Brian Thomas 2-4 2-4 6, Trent Montgomery 2-5 1-2 5, Quaeshon Clark 0-2 0-0 0, Le Davis 3-6 0-0 6, Jordan Hoggatt 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-45 15-20 74.

DSHS (54) – Ray Whitley 4-10 0-0 8, Jay Henderson 2-5 3-4 7, Micah Banks 1-4 2-3 4, Xavier Miles 2-3 2-4 6, Dorsett Washington 2-5 0-3 4, D.J. Williams 1-4 0-0 2, Bryan Harvey 2-2 0-0 4, Julian White 1-2 0-0 2, Kaleb Drummer 1-2 1-1 3, James Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Cameron Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Doug Landry 1-2 0-0 2, Christian Knox 4-6 0-0 12. Totals 21-46 8-15 54.

3-point goals – Walker 9-18 (Ja. Cook 4-6, Moore 3-4, Perkins 2-4, Thomas 0-1, Clark 0-1, Davis 0-1, Hoggatt 0-1); DSHS 4-17 (Knox 4-5, White 0-1, Williams 0-2, Whitley 0-3, Henderson 0-3, Banks 0-3). Total fouls – Walker 17, DSHS 17. Technical foul – Washington. Records: Walker 26-4, 3-1 District 4-5A; DSHS 21-8, 2-2. Up next: Walker at Live Oak, 7 p.m.; DSHS at Central, 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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Randy Rosetta is the Editor of 4-5ALockerRoom.com.

You can reach him at (225) 999.0667 or RandyR@LivingstonParishNews.com.

Follow on Twitter: @RandyRosetta | @LPN_Sports | @LPNews1898