WATSON -- Live Oak did everything it could for nearly 20 minutes Tuesday to frustrate, slow down and derail Walker to get the final week of the regular season started.
Those last 12 minutes-plus, though, displayed exactly why the Wildcats possess the highest of expectations for the rest of this season.
Ignited by Josh Cook’s pesky defensive presence and his kid brother’s frustration-ending third-quarter offensive outburst, and with Darius Hampton chiming in as a playmaker, Walker unleashed a scoring avalanche to blow past the Eagles 68-42.
With the victory, the Wildcats completed a three-game sweep of the Eagles and finished 5-0 against their two parish rivals.
This one took some patience and second-half work, plus needed jolts of energy from Cook and the frontcourt duo of Brian Thomas and Trent Montgomery off the bench.
Beating Live Oak (17-13, 3-3 District 4-5A) for the third time this season wasn’t easy. The Wildcats had to dig deep after their dismal shooting in the first half created a surprising hole to climb out of.
Walker connected on an abysmal 7-of-26 field goals (26.9%) in the initial 16 minutes, which ended with a fitting possession when the Cats (27-4, 4-1) missed three point-blank shots after a steal right before time expired to let the Eagles take a 23-19 lead into halftime.
Cook finished with 7 steals and a bunch of other deflections, Thomas contributed 6 points in the otherwise lethargic first half and Montgomery chimed in with all 10 of his points in a methodical fourth-quarter onslaught.
“That’s pretty much my job – to make sure we’re all in on defense,” Cook said. “We have a lot of guys who can get what they want on offense at just about any time, but we were struggling a little bit to score, so we needed a spark on defense. That’s what I tried to give us.
“We knew our shots were going to start falling eventually, but once we got behind, we couldn’t keep going back-and-forth with them. We had to get some stops.”
Indeed, coming out of halftime needing some kind of spark, Walker got it on defense, particularly from Cook.
The 6-foot senior snared a defensive rebound on DaDa Capling’s miss on the first shot of the third period and then picked Lawrence Pierre’s pocket on the next.
Walker’s Jalen Perkins went coast-to-coast with a defensive carom and scored, Jalen Cook rolled in a short jumper from the lane and then slithered through traffic for another bucket that forged a 25-25 deadlock.
Pierre cranked in a 3-pointer off a pass from Capling to put the Eagles back on top, but over the ensuing 2:25 Walker peppered Live Oak during a game-changing 13-3 spurt.
Hampton scored 7 of his 9 points in the burst, including a fast-break layup off another Josh Cook steal and a 3-pointer when Jalen Cook swiped a pass and kicked a pass ahead.
“Their defense turned it up and we didn’t respond very well,” Capling said. He scored 10 points and led the Eagles with 4 assists. “We expected that to happen and we didn’t handle it well and turned the ball over too much.”
Added Live Oak coach John Capps, “We had it where we wanted at halftime because we played probably the best man-to-man defense we have all season against a quality opponent. That third quarter hurt us, though.”
Ignited by the tide-turning third-quarter run, the Wildcats never really cooled off.
The Eagles managed to keep the deficit to 39-33 after three quarters, but Walker generated points on 14 of 16 offensive trips in the last 8 minutes by knocking down 12-of-17 floor shots.
After the ice-cold beginning, the Cats finished the night shooting at a respectable 45% clip (27 of 60) by hitting a sizzling 20-of-34 after halftime.
Jalen Cook was the primary offensive catalyst in the second half with 14 of his 25 points over the last 16 minutes on 4-for-9 shooting.
“The whole team was frustrated in the first half because we couldn’t get a shot to fall,” Walker coach Anthony Schiro said. “Josh was especially down because he feeds of the energy that he can create for us and he wasn’t able to do that as well as he ususally does.”
Once Jalen Cook found his groove, his teammates followed. None of the three other senior starters scored a point in the first half, but responded in a big way in the second: Hampton scored 9, Perkins 8 and Dalton Moore 6.
Montgomery came in late and finished off a second half when the Cats outscored the Eagles 49-19 with 10 high-energy points in the closing 7:04.
“When we’ve got me coming off the bench at full speed, I think it helps us score and also helps on defense,” Montgomery said. “So I come out and play as hard as I can.”
Added Josh Cook, “Trent is a very athletic guy and a very good defender. He has a whole lot of potential and plays a big role for us.”
While Walker flourished after halftime, Live Oak never rediscovered much offensive mojo.
The Eagles wound up shooting just 30% (15-for-50), with Pierre and Capling the only players who scored more than 4 points over the final 19:45. Pierre paced the Eagles with 16 points.
“All of their guys play great defense and that got to us,” Capling said. “We stopped playing the way we can.”
Both teams are back in action at 7 p.m. Friday with Senior Night festivities. The Wildcats will host Central, which fell to Denham Springs High, 61-36 on Tuesday and is winless in 4-5A play. Live Oak takes on Springfield in a tuneup for the playoffs.
- Hand-in-hand with better shooting, Walker also cleaned up on the backboards in the second half. The Wildcats trailed on the glass at halftime, 21-18. Over the last 16 minutes, Walker yanked down 23 caroms and limited Live Oak to 8. Four Wildcats grabbed at least 5 defensive rebounds and 7 overall: Moore, Hampton, Perkins and Montgomery.
- Turnovers pestered the Eagles all night. They finished with 20, with 5-plus in each of the first three quarters and that derailed any chance to piece together long runs. Walker turned those takeaways into 11 points.
- Live Oak got a pair of 3-pointers each from Capling and Pierre, both on four attempts. The rest of the team was 0-for-9 from beyond the arc.
- Bench scoring was a huge edge for the Cats. Paced by Montgomery and Thomas, Walker got 18 points from its reserves, while Darian Ricard’s single bucket was the only damage Live Oak’s bench inflicted.
WALKER 68, LIVE OAK 42
Walker 7 12 20 29 -- 68
Live Oak 12 11 10 9 -- 42
Walker (68) – Jalen Cook 7-18 9-11 25, Dalton Moore 3-9 0-0 6, Darius Hampton 4-7 0-2 9, Jalen Perkins 4-10 0-4 8, Josh Cook 1-2 0-1 2, Brian Thomas 3-5 0-0 6, Trent Montgomery 5-7 0-0 10, Quaeshon Clark 0-1 0-0 0, Le Davis 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 27-60 11-20 68.
Live Oak (42) – DaDa Capling 2-7 4-4 10, Lawrence Pierre 5-14 4-6 16, Bryan Bayonne 3-10 0-0 4, Vince Bayonne 3-7 0-0 6, Jordan Alford 1-4 0-0 2, Jacobey Lee 0-1 0-0 0, Halen Cox 0-2 0-0 0, Darian Ricard 1-4 0-0 2, Brett McCoy 0-1 0-0 0, Brayden Vallott 0 0-0 0. Totals 15-50 8-10 42.
3-point goals – Walker 3-12 (Ja. Cook 2-6, Hampton 1-2, Perkins 0-1, Jo. Cook 0-1, Moore 0-2); Live Oak 4-17 (Capling 2-4, Pierre 2-4, Ricard 0-1, Cox 0-2, V. Bayonne 0-2, B. Bayonne 0-4). Total fouls – Walker 13, Live Oak 15. Technical foul – Moore. Records: Walker 27-4, 4-1 District 4-5A; Live Oak 17-13, 3-3. Up next: Central at Walker, 7 p.m. Friday; Springfield at Live Oak, 7 p.m. Friday.
Randy Rosetta is Sports Editor of The Livingston Parish News.
You can reach him at (225) 999.0667 or RandyR@LivingstonParishNews.com.
Follow on Twitter: @RandyRosetta | @LPN_Sports | @LPNews1898
Check out these Livingston Parish headlines from February 13, 2018!