WALKER – The one season she’s had in a Walker High uniform will be considered memorable by Tarondia Harold’s own admission, something that was evident during the team’s emotion-charged Senior Night ceremony.
Whether the Lady Cats’ six-member class featured one-year or four-year members, one thing they’ve managed to accomplish is a deep bond with one another.
“I love them like family,” Harold said. “I’m glad I got to be with them. It’s really a loving team. I’m excited that I got to play with them and look forward to still talking with them when it’s all over. I know they’ve got my back forever.”
Five of the six seniors started in their final regular-season home game at Glenn Ellis Gymnasium where Walker promptly fell into an early eight-point hole only to respond with 14 unanswered points and never looked back in a convincing 73-38 District 4-5A victory Friday over Zachary.
LSU signee Tiara Young led the way with a game-high 31 points with Harold scoring 15 and her younger sister Trinity Harold adding 12. Candace Ellis chipped in with eight.
“It was really big,” Walker coach Hannah Jones said of the contributions from her bench. “It showed some great things and I hope it continues. I think they’re getting in a rhythm, especially Tarondia and Trinity. You can see the difference because it looks like they’re having fun.”
Walker (27-4, 4-0 in district) takes a seven-game win streak into the final week of the regular season where the Lady Cats finish at Belaire on Monday and Denham Springs on Friday, a game that’s expected to decide the league championship.
“It wasn’t our best start,” Jones said. “It was a playoff-type start. It’s loud, intense and hyped up. We answered. They came at us, but we answered and that’s what we’re going to take from it. It was a fun game. Once they got settled in, they played.”
Defense was the name of the game for Walker, which limited Zachary (16-15, 2-2) to 24 percent shooting (13 of 54) and forced the Lady Broncos into 21 turnovers.
“The difference in the game was that we didn’t box out and the turnovers,” said Zachary coach Tami McClure, whose team was led in scoring by Osha Cummings (18) and Ty Izzard (16). “That’s the bottom line. We were in control and doing what we’re supposed to be doing and started turning it over.”
Jones tried stopping Zachary’s initial 8-0 surge in the first two minutes of play when Skye Allen scored on a put back.
It took McClure two timeouts to try and slow Walker’s first big run when Young single-handedly made up the difference with 12 straight points, capped by a 3-pointer, and Harold added a steal and layup for a 14-8 lead.
“Our shots weren’t falling so we mainly focused on defense so we could get turnovers and possibly get more points,” Harold said. “We didn’t really score that well from the outside. We were rebounding and playing defense.”
Walker forced Zachary to burn a third timeout in the first half after opening a 28-18 lead.
Senior Candace Ellis scored on a drive to start a 7-0 run included a free throw from Young, a basket from Harold off an assist from Young and Ellis taking a feed from senior point guard Asia Garner and finishing in transition.
Young answered a put back from Zachary’s Osha Cummings with a turnaround in the lane and Harold knocked down a corner jumper and a 3-pointer, courtesy of an assist from Young, to make it 35-20 at halftime.
“We felt they were guard heavy with drivers that could shoot,” said Jones, whose team primarily played a zone defense. “Then No. 22 (Ty Izzard) could score from inside. We had to be ready to play any defense, to play it full and intense. I thought I saw a bit of that.”
Zachary, which missed nine of its first 10 shots in the third quarter, closed to 39-26 on four consecutive free throws from Izzard after a foul and technical foul.
Not to worry.
Harold’s three-point play off a put back started a 12-0 surge over the next four minutes to help Walker regain control at 50-26 with 1:30 to go.
Young made four free throws and Tarondia and Trinity Harold each had a basket when McClure picked up a technical with 1:30 left and Young made two more free throws.
“We’re not a 30-point loss team,” said McClure, whose team suffered its worst loss of the season. It is what it is and hopefully we’ll learn from this and grow. We’re inexperienced varsity wise. We’re doing the best we can.”
In the final minute of the third quarter Walker opened a 54-30 advantage when Young made two free throws and alertly inbounded the ball off the back of a Zachary defender and laying the ball up with 17 seconds showing.
Zachary encountered more problems offensively, going three minutes without a field goal – a stretch of six straight missed shots – and enabling Walker to build a 60-31 cushion on a pair of drives from Young and a third try put back from Ellis.
Brianna Moore’s 3-pointer from the corner, which kicked up off the rim and went back through with two-tenths of a second, accounted for Walker’s biggest lead.
“We want to finish the rest of the season strong,” Harold said, “Keep the positive energy going. Just keep it going. Staying focused, playing together as family.”