The paths of the Walker High and Denham Springs girls basketball teams cross for the second time this season, the first time in two months since settling the Livingston Parish Tournament championship.
Given the trajectory of both teams with Top 10 power ratings, it’s conceivable there could be a trilogy to this season’s rivalry in the postseason.
“They’re doing an excellent job this season,” Denham Springs coach Blake Zito said. “(Walker coach) Hannah’s (Jones) done an outstanding job taking over. They’ve had some big wins. They’re playing really well and comfortably beat a lot of teams in district that we’ve kind of struggled with at times. It’s going to be two really good teams going at it.”
The district’s schedule makers got it right when No. 2 Walker (28-4) visits No. 7 Denham Springs (24-4) where the District 4-5A championship will be on the line between a pair of 5-0 teams.
Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Grady Hornsby Gymnasium.
“It’s a matter of who comes to play that day,” Jones said. “It’s a great game toward the playoffs. It’s two top teams, big game on the line. It’s a great way to look forward at moving toward the playoffs.”
Denham Springs put together one of its most complete performances of the season in handing Walker a 54-38 defeat in the final of the Livingston Parish tournament at Maurepas High School.
The Lady Jackets enjoyed three substantial runs – particularly in the second and third quarters – that provided some cushion before the Lady Cats answered with a charge of their own in the latter stages of the fourth quarter.
“We were just starting to hit our stride a little bit during that time,” Zito said. “That’s when we turned the corner. I do feel like we’re better and you know they’ve gotten better.”
Led by tournament MVP Desiree Jones, the Lady Jackets featured a balanced scoring effort that complimented their defense that limited Walker to 24 points through three quarters of play.
Jones, who scored 16 points, was also part of the Lady Jackets defensive effort along with Jala Robinson who took turns trying to slow down Walker’s Tiara Young, who wound up with 23 points.
The Lady Cats didn’t have another double-digit scorer in the game.
“We’ve got to play a full game,” Jones said. “We can’t pick and choose when to play. That was the parish championship game. That was a big game with a championship on the line. We’ve got to take that experience and learn from it that we’ve got be ready to play in a big game, the whole game. We have to have more successful moments than non-successful.”
Young, an LSU signee, averages a team-high 33.7 points and 7.5 rebounds and will certainly be the focal point of Denham Springs’ defensive effort.
“There’s no stopping Tiara, it’s containing her,” Zito said. “The more I watch her play, the more I respect her. She has one of the prettiest jump shots I’ve ever seen. Every time it leaves her hand, I’m surprised it doesn’t go in.”
The biggest noticeable difference in Walker this time around is the addition of Tarondia and Trinity Harold, a pair of transfers from Denham Springs who were ruled eligible to play Dec. 20 by the LHSAA.
Since their arrival, the Lady Cats are 13-2 and currently riding a nine-game win streak.
“Those two players fit them well, makes them a little deeper,” Zito said. “We took advantage of them not having as many players with the bench and size. I expect it to be a totally different game. We probably both feel good about our chances which we should.”
Denham Springs counters with a balanced scoring attack paced by senior point guard Alexius Horne (14), a Southeastern Louisiana. Junior Katherine Thompson averages 12 points and 10 rebounds, Jones 10 points, 8 rebounds and Robinson 8 points, 7 rebounds.
“Getting to play your rival on a big stage, it’s a fun game and that’s what basketball’s about,” Jones said. “I hope that everyone sees that it’s exciting and fun. It’s going to be a good game.”
Zito added: “It’s going to be fun. We obviously both want to win, but for your kids to win, it’s something they’re going to talk about for the rest of your lives.”
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