ZACHARY -- There were two emphatic moments during the second half of Walker’s key 62-56 District 4-5A road win over Zachary on Tuesday that signified the Wildcats were on the verge of taking control.
The first took place as the third quarter was winding down when freshman Jalen Cook gave his team the lead back during a frenzied final 62 seconds, draining a 3-pointer from in front of the team’s bench for a two-point lead.
The other, with the Wildcats trying to pull away, came when Jalen Perkins took a three-quarter-length court pass from Jacobi Scott in stride and completed the fast break with a slam dunk, helping to punctuate his team’s six-point victory.
“When we get a lead, it’s like energy that keeps us going and creates momentum,” Perkins said.
Walker (19-7, 4-1 4-5A) responded with its second straight victory since last week’s 14-point loss at Scotlandville. The Wildcats took over second place in the league, winning for the seventh time in their last eight games going into Friday’s home game with Central.
“You come on the road to a team that’s 17-8, 3-1 in district against a good team,” Walker coach Anthony Schiro said of Zachary. “It was a good win. We’re happy with it.”
Relieved might be more like it.
Zachary (17-9, 3-2) went on an 8-0 run midway through the second quarter – opening its largest lead at 20-16 – when Walker’s Darius Hampton answered with a 3-pointer, setting off a 3-minute span of three lead changes and two ties – including 25-all at halftime.
“In the first half we got off to a pretty good start, but I didn’t think we finished well around the basket,” Schiro said. “We had a lot of opportunities to have a bigger lead than we did and that helped Zachary out.”
Both teams shot 36% from the field in the opening half, but Schiro felt his defense and rebounding were unsatisfactory, opening up driving lanes to the basket for the Broncos along with the opportunity for six second-chance points.
“They started attacking us; we were reaching in and fouling instead of sliding our feet and not rotating well on defense,” he said. “If we came over late, even if they missed the shot, they were getting back-side rebounds. They outrebounded us way too much and got too many second-chance points.”
Walker trailed 36-31 – its biggest deficit of the game – with 3:50 to go in the third quarter when the Wildcats went on an 11-4 spurt, started by Dalton Moore’s lay-up, and capped by Cook’s 3-pointer at the buzzer – representing the game’s ninth lead change.
“I thought we came out a little slow in the third quarter,” Schiro said “Then we picked it up, hit the big shot (Cook’s 3) to take the lead and I thought our maturity level in the fourth quarter showed.”
There were a pair of ties within the first minute of the fourth quarter when Walker took the lead for good with 6:19 left on two free throws from Hampton, who finished with 13 points.
Not only did Walker enjoy its most productive quarter, making 6 of 10 shots, the Wildcats also limited Zachary to three field goals in the last 4:22 of the game and forced four turnovers.
“We had to be patient and let our defense create offense,” Perkins said. “We didn’t want to do anything stupid.”
Perkins, who led Walker with 19 points and 6 rebounds, was the defensive catalyst with two of his 6 blocks during a sequence in which Hampton made it 50-45 after a fast break layup.
After a steal and lay-in from Zachary’s Demoine Bowie, Cook delivered an 8-foot jumper that dropped through after several bounces off the side of the rim. He followed with a steal and layup that increased the Wildcats’ lead to 56-50 with just under 2 minutes left and wound up with 13 points.
Walker’s lead reached 59-52 when the Cats spread the floor, taking time off the clock and going to the foul line with Moore making the back end of a two-shot opportunity after a turnover.
Perkins followed with his highlight moment, getting a turnover under Zachary’s basket, running the floor and getting rewarded from Scott for the two-handed jam.
“This wasn’t our best performance, but it was good,” Schiro said. “We’ve put ourselves in position to be in sole possession of second place. I told the guys we control our own destiny if we still want to try for a district championship as long as we keep winning.”
WALKER 62, ZACHARY 56
Walker 12 13 17 20 -- 62
Zachary 9 16 15 16 -- 56
Walker (62) -- Jalen Perkins 8 3-6 19, Darius Hampton 3 4-5 13, Jalen Cook 4 2-3 13, Jacobi Scott 1 4-6 9, Josh Cook 2 0-0 4, Dalton Moore 1 2-4 4. Totals 19 15-26 62.
Zachary (56) -- Austin Veal 5 1-2 20, Terrance Lucas 6 0-1 12, Calvin Adams 0 7-10 10, Carlan Richardson 3 1-3 7, Demoine Bowie 2 3-4 7. Totals 16 12-20 56.
3-point goals -- Walker 3 (Hampton, Scott, Ja. Cook), Zachary 4 (Veal 3, Adams 1). Total fouls -- Walker 16, Zachary 19. Records: Walker: 19-7, 4-1 District 4-5A; Zachary 17-9, 3-2. Up next: Central at Walker, 7 p.m. Friday; Scotlandville at Zachary, 7 p.m. Friday.