WALKER -- The Walker basketball team turned a small run into something bigger once the third quarter began, and that wasn’t good news for Denham Springs High.
The Wildcats closed the first half with a 6-0 burst then held the Yellow Jackets to five points in the third quarter, keying a 54-40 non-district win at Walker on Tuesday.
“That was our big thing coming into the game was just to win every quarter,” Walker coach Anthony Schiro said after his team moved to 11-5. “I challenged … our defensive intensity and effort tonight, and I thought our guys responded.”
The deciding portion of the game was still fresh on DSHS coach Kevin Caballero’s mind.
“It was a three-point game, 23-20, and then we give up six points on two turnovers and a bad decision and go down at half by nine,” Caballero said after his team dropped to 11-10. “We had the game where we wanted it. We wanted it in the mid-20s, and they just were able to get it a little spread out in that third quarter and it was an uphill climb from there.”
Denham’s Nick Cosby went 2-for-4 at the line, cutting the Walker lead to 23-20 with 2:17 to play in the first half, but Walker got a putback from Gavin Harris, a steal and dunk from Donald Butler and jumper from Harris after Warren Young Jr. pulled down a rebound after a missed DSHS shot, pushing the lead to 29-20 at halftime.
“I thought our defense was pretty good in the first quarter, but we wanted to switch it up just to maybe get our intensity level up a little more, maybe get us out in transition a little better, and I thought it did,” Schiro said. “I thought going man … really keeping them in front of us, getting rebounds and outlets, kind of helped our offensive effort, too, just turning our defense into offense.”
Maison Vorise’s layup got Denham Springs within 29-22 to open the third quarter, but Butler’s putback sparked an 8-0 run that ended on Ja’Cory Thomas’ inside layup.
Denham Springs got the remainder of its points in the quarter on a free throw from Reams and two more from Elijah Gilmore, and Walker stretched the lead to 45-25 heading into the fourth quarter on Kevin Ellis’ just before the buzzer.
“I had challenged our guys again at halftime to just try to have another quarter like we did in the second quarter,” Schiro said. “I think we gave up eight, so I was like ‘hey, if we can hold them under double-digits, man, we’re doing great.’ The guys responded even better (and) held them to five, so that was awesome. Again, I can’t be more proud of the defensive effort we gave tonight."
The Wildcats led by as much as 22 twice in the fourth quarter – the second time at 54-32 on Harris’ basket – before Gilmore’s layup and a pair of 3-pointers by Stephen Baker and Hayden Jarrell closed out the scoring.
“It’s a lot easier to defend when you’re down four and six than when you’re down 12 and 18,” Caballero said. “But I will say this for my guys, at the beginning of the fourth, I challenged them to play eight minutes, and I thought we did. We’re going through a little rough stretch right here. A lot of that is the schedule, extremely tough schedule, extremely tough district that we’re in. We’ll see if we can keep our head above water.”
Harris led Walker with 19 points, while Young added 12.
“Those two guys are our catalysts for sure,” Schiro said. “We knew Gavin coming in had the potential to be a very vital player for us, and he is. He’s a catalyst to our team. He does a lot of good things. He’s just a dynamic athlete. He can hit the open shot. He gets to the rim. He can jump up and elevate over people, so as he’s playing well, it’s going to be good for us.”
Gimore led DSHS with 10 points, while Reams had nine.
Walker jumped out to a 7-3 lead, but the Yellow Jackets chipped away, taking an 8-7 lead on Reams’ steal and layup. Young’s inside basket put the Wildcats ahead 9-8, and Walker never trailed after that, taking a 16-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“It was a nip-and-tuck battle there, back-and-forth in the first quarter,” Schiro said. “Both teams were in a zone. We were in a matchup zone. They were in a straight 2-3, 3-2, and we had a little trouble attacking it, but I thought our guys kind of felt it out a little bit and we started getting some high-low action, started getting a few more paint touches, and that’s when it really started opening up for us a little bit. Again, the big factor I think was just switching to the man, getting us out in transition a little better.”
Garrett Guillory’s inside bucket cut the lead to 20-18, but the Yellow Jackets couldn’t get any closer as Young’s three-point play stretched the lead to 23-18 before the Wildcats put together their run just before halftime.
“I thought the guys did a good job,” Caballero said. “They bought into the game plan. They did what we asked them to do. Maybe fatigue a little bit late in that second quarter there, those turnovers kind of attributed to that.”
“Our margin of error is not very big,” Caballero continued. “We can’t turn the ball over and expect to win, especially against a good team like Walker.”