WALKER - The way the Walker Wildcats were sharing the ball Friday against Denham Springs High School, the new high school gymnasium was the individual star of the show Friday night against Denham Springs.
A near capacity crowd packed the facility approved for use the night before by the school board and Walker took the opportunity in its new home to hammer the Yellow Jackets, 81-55, in a District 4-5A game.
Let the record show second team all-state point guard Jalen Cook scored the first basket of the night, a 3-pointer, and didn’t stop until he had tallied 32 points.
But Cook got plenty of support from Brian Thomas with 25 points and four steals, and Graham Smith who had 10.
Cook connected on 11 of 18 shots, including five of eight 3-point attempts, but also got his teammates involved with his sharp passing with six assists.
Walker (23-9, 4-0 in district) won its fourth consecutive victory to remain atop the league race.
“It was a great atmosphere, Cook said. “Trying to get everybody involved in the new gym. We made some tough shots, played good on D. In the second half we turned it up more, be aggressive and trust our teammates.”
Denham Springs (17-15, 2-2) hung close for most of the first half and trailed 34-26 at the break.
But Walker began attacking the basket and Cook made five of his six shots in the third quarter to widen the deficit to 58-39.
“I thought we played as a team very well,” Walker coach Anthony Schiro said. “Our team defense was very good, especially in the second half. We shut down their driving lanes and made them take some tough shots. We rebounded the ball well and got out in transition. When we got out in transition on their long rebounds it got us going a little bit.
“We’re much better when we’re moving the ball,” Schiro said. “With players like Jalen and Brian, the ball seems to find them when we’re moving it. It gave us some easy scoring opportunities. We got to the rim better in the second half and finished around the goal.”
Walker separated the score quickly to start the second half.
Cook found Thomas twice with laser passes for baskets and then Cook went strong inside for a driving layup which he converted into a three-point play with 6:48, prompting a time out from Denham Springs coach Kevin Caballero.
Cook nailed his fifth 3-pointer just before the end of the quarter for a 19-point lead.
The Yellow Jackets were led by Xavier Miles with 14 points and D.J. Williams with 13. Micah Banks and C.J. Johnson had nine each.
“It was a big night for them,” Caballero said. “I thought my kids played hard. They made shots and we didn’t. When they’re keeping score it’s not a good thing. We played zone on them and when we got behind, we had to go out and guard them. You take your chances he (Cook) might miss, but he’s a very good player.”
Denham Springs’ last lead came early in the second quarter when Banks hit a 3-pointer for a 15-14 edge. Walker regained the lead when Calvin Watson scored on a baseline jumper and Cook got a layup off a turnover to put the home team on top for good.
“Jalen has been playing extremely well, playing within himself,” Schiro said. “He’s moving the ball and getting his teammates involved. He’s scoring the ball when he needs to and getting assists when he needs to, playing good defense and doing it all. Hopefully he’ll keep doing that.”
Said Cook: “We’re doing whatever it takes to win. When we play as a team, we think we can beat anybody. Teamwork makes the dream work. We’re just trying to get ready for state.”
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