WALKER – The Walker Lady Cats won twice Monday night.
When their game with H.L. Bourgeois was over, the scoreboard inside Walker’s new gym showed that the Lady Cats had won on the court 58-39.
But maybe more importantly, the game marked the season-debut of senior Kaitlyn Hayes, who had been out of action since mid-October with a broken finger on her left hand.
Playing with tape holding two fingers on her left hand together, Hayes came off the bench in the second quarter to spark a run that helped Walker (5-2) to a 20-point halftime lead.
Hayes finished with 15 points, sharing game-high scoring honors with Trinity Harold and Lanie Miller.
The Lady Cats started out just fine, leading 17-9 at the end of the first quarter. Harold scored eight points in the opening stanza with Walker using pressure defense to force turnovers which led to easy baskets.
When Hayes entered in the second quarter, Walker raised its play to another level. She scored seven points to lead the Lady Cats to a 18-6 second quarter advantage and a 35-15 lead at halftime.
“She brings an element that she can score the ball and she is a good defender,” Walker coach Korey Arnold said of Hayes. “The two games we lost this year, I thought that if she had played, we would have won. She is my kid when we need a basket, she can go get it. She is athletic, she can get to the rim, she can hit a mid-range shot. We have been missing that.”
And Hayes missed being on the floor, but despite her time away, she was ready when her number was called.
“It felt good,” Hayes said with a smile. “I knew I had to come out there and give out the energy. Once you come back from an injury like that you realize how something can be taken away from you that fast, so I was ready to come in and do my job”
The Lady Cats used their quickness and pressure defense in the first half to stifle the Lady Braves’ offense and hold them to just 15 points.
“We are a small team,” Hayes said. “We are like the smallest team in (Class) 5A, so we depend on our defense a lot. We have to be everywhere. We are just trying to frustrate the other team the best we can and it’s fun to see teams get frustrated.”
Arnold agreed his team will have to rely on their defense as the season unfolds.
“We lost six seniors and 60 points per game in scoring from last year, so we definitely have to rely on our defense every night,” he said. “I always tell them that you can’t have a bad defensive night. You can have a bad shooting night, but defense travels. On the nights we can’t quite shoot the ball well, we stay in the game by playing a pressing defense.”