WATSON --There was no blowout this time.
After stomping Livingston parish rival Live Oak by a combined 70 points in the previous two meetings this season, Walker was on the verge of being upset through much of its third meeting with the Eagles on Tuesday night.
The Wildcats trailed by a point after the first quarter, went ahead by four at the break and had that lead trimmed to one again entering the final period.
Then, like it has so many times this season, Walker’s defense kicked in.
Aided by a game-high 19 points from freshman Jalen Cook, the Wildcats used their stifling defense to generate easy offense in a dominant fourth quarter to pull away from Live Oak, 58-45.
Walker (21-7, 6-1), which had already beaten Live Oak 72-30 and 77-49 this season, seemed out of whack through the first three quarters Tuesday. Hoping to pull off the upset, the Eagles (15-14, 0-7) methodically executed their offense, working the ball around the perimeter in an attempt to slow down the fast-paced Wildcats.
“They would do the weave,” Cook said. “They would keep passing it around, and their objective was to pass it around until they saw a seam and drive to the goal.”
For most of the night, the ploy worked.
Live Oak led 7-6 after a low-scoring first quarter before going into halftime down 23-19. Walker extended its lead to seven midway through the third quarter, but the Eagles closed on an 11-5 run to make it a one-point game heading into the final 8 minutes.
The Eagles made seven 3-pointers through the first three quarters as their steady offensive had the Wildcats scrambling for much of the night.
“(Live Oak coach Gary Duhe) did a great job of making some adjustments from the previous two games,” WHS coach Anthony Schiro said. “He slowed down the pace and got it where they wanted it instead of letting us get on the fast break. We struggled for a while.”
Fortunately for Schiro and his team, the Wildcats’ struggles ended just in time.
Clinging to a 38-37 lead, Walker outscored the Eagles 20-8 in the fourth quarter while hitting 9-of-13 field goals. Jalen Perkins started the run with two layups, the second off a nice no-look feed from Cook. Live Oak then dropped five straight to tie it at 42, but the Wildcats answered back with 14 of the game’s final 17 points as they rolled to their fourth straight win and sixth in seven games.
Walker forced seven turnovers after halftime and got an easy bucket after each one for an additional 14 points. It also held Live Oak to 20% shooting (2-for-10) in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense always is the key,” Schiro said. “When we’re playing well on defense, it always helps our offense. We turn good defense into easy offense. Finally, in the fourth quarter, we were able to get turnovers, get the lead where we wanted it and make Live Oak play faster than they wanted to.”
Along with Jalen Cook’s big scoring night, the Wildcats also got 12 points from Perkins on 6-for-6 shooting from the field and 7 points apiece from Jacobi Scott, Darius Hampton and Josh Cook.
Guard Ralph Davenport hit three 3-pointers while leading Live Oak with 17 points. Josh Reams added 12, and Joe Bergeron chipped in 9 for the Eagles, who lost for the seventh consecutive game.
The Wildcats now turn their attention to a first-place showdown with Scotlandville, starting at 7 p.m. Friday at Walker. Both teams will be 6-1 in league play entering what could be a district-deciding match. Walker fell to the Hornets, 84-70, in the first meeting on Jan. 24.
For the Eagles, things won’t get much easier when they host Zachary at 7 p.m. Friday. The Broncos have won five of their last six games, including the last two, and already beat Live Oak 52-40 this season, their sixth straight win in the series.
WALKER 58, LIVE OAK 45
Walker 6 17 15 20 -- 58
Live Oak 7 12 18 8 -- 45
Walker (58) -- Jalen Cook 7-13 2-2 19, Jalen Perkins 6-6 0-2 12, Darius Hampton 3-7 0-0 7, Jacobi Scott 3-7 0-0 7, Josh Cook 3-3 1-2 7, Dalton Moore 2-5 2-3 6, Le Davis 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 24-44 5-9 58.
Live Oak (45) -- Ralph Davenport 5-13 4-4 17, Joshua Reams 5-9 0-0 12, Joe Bergeron 3-7 1-2 9, Trent Crifasi 2-2 0-0 5, Dearron Capling 1-6 0-0 2, Cody Fontenot 0-3 0-0 0, Markel Rudison 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-41 5-6 45.
3-point field goals -- Walker 5-19 (Jalen Cook 3-8, Hampton 1-2, Scott 1-4, Moore 0-2, Davis 0-4); Live Oak 8-24 (Davenport 3-8, Bergeron 2-4, Reams 2-6, Crifasi 1-1, Capling 0-2, Fontenot 0-2, Rudison 0-1). Records: Walker 21-7, 6-1; Live Oak 15-14, 0-7. Up next: Scotlandville at Walker, 7 p.m. Friday; Zachary at Live Oak, 7 p.m. Friday.