DENHAM SPRINGS – The first 11 minutes of Friday’s game in the Denham Springs High’s team camp was all you needed know about a potential strength of this upcoming season’s Walker High girls basketball team.
Gone are the 30 points per game of LSU signee Tiara Young, the state’s Class 5A Most Valuable Player and Miss Basketball, but in her place came a total of 19 points from four different players in the Lady Cats’ game with Brusly.
“Last year we had one person scoring a lot of our points,” Walker guard Kaitlyn Hayes said. “Now we’ve got to get everyone involved. Everybody does their part; everybody has a job to do and we just work hard to get our job done.”
Hayes showed off her improved game and Walker bolted to a comfortable halftime lead, resulting in a 37-23 victory over Brusly at Denham Springs’ Grady Hornsby Gymnasium.
Walker finished a 3-0 performance during the two-day team camp with a 33-25 win over Fontainebleau. They opened with a 33-21 over defending Class 3A state champion Loranger on Thursday.
“We lost over 60 points in scoring from six seniors last year,” Walker coach Korey Arnold said. “We’re still kind of finding our identity on offense. Defensively, I know we’re going to play harder than we did last year and get after people. Right now, our defense needs to be our offense until our offense settles in.”
Walker’s pressure and trapping defense produced eight first-half turnovers, paving the way to a commanding 19-2 advantage at the five-minute mark of the opening half.
While Hayes certainly left her mark, scoring seven of her game-high 14 points during that stretch, it was the contributions of her teammates that helped the Lady Cats gain early separation.
Sophomores Lanie Miller scored five of her seven points and Madison Ellis added five more – both players contributing 3-point baskets along the way.
Moreover, the Lady Cats held the Lady Panthers to only a pair of field goals and 2 of 12 shooting and eight of their 14 turnovers in the first 16-minute half.
“Our focus right now is our defense and letting our offense come to us which is a little slow right now,” Hayes said. “As we gradually get through the year, our offense will catch up.”
Hayes was part of an impressive showing behind the arc where Walker combined for 4 of 9 shooting from 3-point range with Hayes, Miller and Ellis combining from the outside and helping the Lady Cats build a 24-8 halftime lead.
“It feels good because we do this at practice and we work hard at it,” Hayes said. “It transfers from practice to the game. We work hard on it and it’s something we’re supposed to do. We’re expected to knock those shots down because we practice them every day.”
Walker’s offensive production tapered off in the second half where the Lady Cats missed their first five shots – four of which were 3-point attempts.
Hayes converted a pair of steals into layups, Miller added a layup and Brianna Moore a 3-pointer to give Walker its biggest lead of 33-12, but the Lady Cats missed eight of their last 10 field goal attempts.
Moreover, after Chania Watson’s spin move in the lane made it 37-12, Walker didn’t score another point and was outscored 11-0 over the final six minutes of the game.
“Our kids really play hard and buy into what we’re doing,” Arnold said. “We’re not nearly as talented as we were last year, but I think we’re going to be successful because they work hard, and they truly care about each other. That means a lot when you play team basketball.”