DENHAM SPRINGS -- There are always some uncertainties for a team when it makes the transition from an emotional game that didn’t turn out as hoped to the next challenge.
Ever since emerging more as a hunted team this season than a hunter, the Walker boys have encountered their share of those transitions and, for the most part, have shown they can handle them well.
Add another check mark to that list after Tuesday night.
Sparked by often unheralded Dalton Moore, the Wildcats shrugged off a cold shooting start in the first several minutes and methodically dissected Denham Springs High 64-37 at Hornsby Gym.
This wasn’t the flashy, high-octane Walker team that is on the way to hosting a first-round playoff game for the second year in a row.
What it was, though, was the Cats blending maturity with experience and talent to take care of business four nights after falling to Scotlandville in a showdown for the District 4-5A lead. Walker lost that game 82-63, in large part because it faded in the second half.
There was not even a hint of recurrence Tuesday against the feisty Yellow Jackets as Moore scored six of his game-high 15 points down the stretch to help the Wildcats (22-8, 7-2 District 4-5A) close the game on a 17-0 burst.
“This was huge for us because we want to finish strong going into the playoffs,” said Moore, who knocked down 7-of-9 floor shots to help the Cats recover from a 3-for-9 start and shoot 49% (27 for 55). “We want to keep playing ball for a while, and you have to be playing well going into the playoffs to make that happen.”
DSHS (10-23, 3-6) won’t make the postseason but came out clicking like a team eager to throw a kink in their parish rival’s plans.
The Jackets patiently worked against Walker’s constant pressure defense without turning the ball over (only twice in first quarter) and forced the Wildcats to bog down against a mix of zone defenses.
Ray Whitley buried a 3-pointer to give Denham an 8-6 lead in the closing minute of the opening period and Kaleb Drummer added a momentum boost when he swished another trey from the top of the key as the quarter expired.
Another key was the work DSHS did on the glass with a 10-5 advantage early and no offensive boards for the Cats until the third quarter.
“We knew they were going to trap that first pass and they did – they came with some heavy pressure – and we handled it well,” DSHS coach Kevin Caballero said. “We spread the floor well and didn’t get in a hurry in the first half.”
One element was missing, though, and it eventually caught up with the Jackets and buried them.
As well as Denham executed, shots didn’t fall: The Jackets were 3-for-14 from the floor in the first quarter, 6-for-20 at halftime and finished 11-for-38 (28.9%) after missing every field goal they tried in the final 8 minutes.
On top of that, DSHS also got sloppy with the ball, turning it over seven times in the second quarter.
“When we were down 27-20 at halftime, I still thought we were doing OK,” Caballero said. “Then even in the first couple of minutes of third quarter we were hanging in there. But we missed a few easy ones, Walker forced some turnovers and got us to play their tempo and it got away from us real fast.”
Turned out that the tempo didn’t matter much once the Wildcats shook off the blahs of the loss to Scotlandville. Because they started making shots and never really cooled off, nailing 23-of-34 (67.6%) after the rocky start.
Darius Hampton helped light a fire with seven points in the second quarter, five in a row after Le Davis gave the Cats the lead for good, 12-11, on a mid-range jumper from the free-throw line in the opening minute of the period.
Those two made shots were part of Walker connecting on 8-of-12 from the field in the period to plug ahead.
“That was a big game for us against Scotlandville, so guys were a little flat and we needed to get out there and get going and make some shots,” WHS coach Anthony Schiro said. “Denham didn’t want to play at our tempo and did some things to slow us down. They moved in and out of their zone defenses to keep us off balance, but whatever they did against us, our guys stayed patient and executed.”
From all corners.
One advantage the Wildcats have against most foes is their diversity and that showed against the Jackets, as one veteran after another took turns making plays and scoring points in the third quarter to keep DSHS at bay.
- Jalen Perkins mixed a handful of feathery mid-range jumpers with a thunderous slam-dunk on an inbounds play and also rejected 5 Jacket shots.
- Jacobi Scott scuffled a bit offensively but cranked in a 3-pointer that gave Walker its first double-digit lead, 37-27.
- Like he always seems to do, Davis picked and chose his spots, including three-point play that kept Walker comfortably ahead, 41-34.
Denham was still within 43-36 when Keondre Brown swished two free throws, the last of a frustrating night when he scored only 8 points, with 6:29 left in the game.
After that, though, the rest of the story line was written by the Cats. Walker scored on 11 of its final 13 offensive trips in the final quarter and all DSHS mustered was one more foul shot while missing 10 floor shots in a row.
“We showed some maturity and took care of business,” Schiro said. “All of our guys found a way to come through.”
Which is what Walker has come to expect of itself.
“We’re just a team that has learned to always bounce back,” Moore said. “Last year when we were younger, we let losses bother us and didn’t play well the next game. Now we know we can’t do that. You have to come back out and play ball and that’s what we did.”
Both teams close out the regular season Friday.
The Jackets travel to Scotlandville (27-3, 8-1), which will try to nail down the outright district crown with a win, while Walker hosts Zachary (21-9, 7-2) in a matchup of teams jockeying for a second-place finish. Both games tip off at 7 p.m.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- The Wildcats finished with only 3 offensive rebounds among their 23 total – none in the first half. As a result, Walker generated only one second-chance point.
- Only one Denham player shot 50% or better from the floor – Kaleb Drummer was 1-for-2.
- Moore and Hampton combined to hit 13-of-17 floor shots between them. Those two also led Walker with 6 rebounds apiece.
- After a promising start in the turnover department, the Jackets wound up with 17 giveaways, compared to 11 made field goals. DSHS did manage to hit 12-of-15 free throws.
- Following a first-quarter stretch when four consecutive Walker possessions resulted in one-and-done shots, the Wildcats never went more than two offensive trips in a row without putting points on the scoreboard.
WALKER 64, DSHS 37
Walker 8 19 14 23 -- 64
DSHS 11 9 14 3 -- 37
Walker (64) -- Jacobi Scott 1-5 5-8 8, Darius Hampton 6-8 0-0 13, Jalen Cook 4-9 1-3 9, Dalton Moore 7-9 0-0 15, Jalen Perkins 5-8 0-0 10, Le Davis 2-3 1-1 5, Josh Cook 1-2 0-0 2, Trent Montgomery 1-1 0-0 2, Jade Henry 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan Hoggatt 0-0 0-0 0, Jace Valenti 0-0 0-0 0, Qaeshon Clark 0-0 0-0 0, Cameron Palmer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-55 7-12 64.
DSHS (37) -- Ray Whitley 1-6 2-2 5, Keondre Brown 2-6 3-4 8, D.J. Williams 2-6 0-0 4, Dorsett Washington 2-7 4-6 8, Kolby Brooks 3-8 1-1 7, Micah Banks 0-2 2-2 2, Tyler Hoover 0-1 0-0 0, Kaleb Drummer 1-2 0-0 3, Xavier Miles 0-0 0-0 0, Bryan Harvey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 11-38 12-15 37.
3-point goals -- Walker 3-11 (Hampton 1-2, Moore 1-2, Scott 1-4, Ja. Cook 0-2, Davis 0-1), DSHS 3-11 (Brown 1-1, Whitley 1-2, Drummer 1-2, Williams 0-2, Banks 0-2). Total fouls -- Walker 12, DSHS 16. Records: Walker 22-8, 7-2 District 4-5A; DSHS 10-23, 3-6. Up next: Zachary at Walker, 7 p.m. Friday; DSHS at Scotlandville, 7 p.m. Friday.
Randy Rosetta is Sports Editor of The Livingston Parish News.
You can reach him at (225) 610.5507 or RandyR@LivingstonParishNews.com.
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