MAUREPAS –There were some areas in particular of a 21-point halftime lead that Walker boys basketball coach Anthony Schiro didn’t like in Friday’s game with Doyle in the semifinals of the Livingston Parish Tournament.
So, at halftime, Schiro let his team know about.
“At halftime coach Schiro got on us for playing slow, so we had to pick up the energy, Walker sophomore forward Brian Thomas said. “We had to play our hardest to get ready for the game Saturday.”
Walker needed a five-minute stretch of the third quarter, a span that included a torrid 28-5 run, to put the top-seeded Wildcats back in the championship game of the Livingston Parish Tournament with an 87-49 victory Friday over fourth-seeded Doyle at Maurepas High School.
The Wildcats (5-2) look to extend their streak of consecutive parish championships to four when they face second-seeded Live Oak at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Live Oak’s playing great,” Schiro said. “They’re moving the ball well and shooting it incredible. Their defense is good and they’re flying all over the court. They’re definitely a great team. It should be one of our best championship games we’ve had in a while. That’s what we work for, trying to get a fourth one. But it’s going to be a tough one.”
Walker never trailed against Doyle, scoring the first six points of the game.
Class 5A second team All-State guard Jalen Cook scored 22 of his game-high 28 points in the first half, while Thomas scored 16 of his 24 in the third quarter.
Keondre Brown added 13 and Trent Montgomery 10.
Walker led 20-9 after the first quarter when Cook floated in a one-hander, giving him 14 points.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing we want to play to the standard we’ve set for ourselves and work on what we do well,” Schiro said. “In the first half we didn’t play bad, but I didn’t think it was our best basketball either. Our defensive rotations were kind of slow and out of position. I thought we took some quick shots instead of getting better looks.”
Doyle chose to attack Walker’s defense, using a series of dribble-handoffs to create driving lanes for guards Eli Dawsey, Andrew Yuratich and Braden Keen to look for open lay-ups or pass to an open teammate.
Thomas and Trent Montgomery made life difficult on anyone trying to find an opening around the goal, combining to either block shots and alter several others.
“I thought we competed well in the first quarter,” Doyle coach Daniel Kennedy. “We actually got them in a little foul trouble but missed some shots and that was due to their athleticism. We missed the front end of some free throws that we really needed. Obviously, we had to play at the top of our game to keep it close.”
Dawsey (12 points) provided Doyle with one memorable highlight, hitting a half-court shot at the buzzer that drew the Tigers to within 45-24 at halftime.
Walker quickly built a 56-29 lead out of the locker room and Thomas went on a 9-0 run of his own in less than two minutes to provide the Wildcats with a 72-32 advantage at the 2:40 mark.
Thomas scored on a baseline drive, put back, 3-pointer and took a pass from Brown for an alley-oop slam dunk.
“We came out in the third quarter after we made some adjustments and I told the guys what we were looking for and they did it,” Schiro said. “I told them after the game that was a great response to the adjustments we talked about at halftime. I was proud of them for playing to our standard.”
Walker’s biggest margin twice reached 44 points (82-38) on the fourth 3-pointer for Cook and a bank shot from Thomas (84-40), the latter coming with five minutes to go.
“You want to play good competition, but you want to compete at a higher level,” Kennedy said. “I’m real disappointed in the fact that once we got down, we shut it down instead of really trying to still compete. That’s the thing that we’re going to take away from it. Learning to compete regardless of the score or the opponent you play.”