MAUREPAS -- Thursday’s game between Walker and French Settlement meant something different for both teams, and the hope for both coaches is that it makes their teams better down the line.
Top-seeded Walker rode a big first quarter to an 84-41 win over the eight-seeded Lions.
“We wanted to focus on executing, doing things well, getting off to a good start, not getting out of position – just paying attention to detail, establishing that we’re the better team and just maintaining that through the night,” Walker coach Anthony Schiro said after four of his players scored in double figures to advance to Friday’s 7:30 p.m. semifinal game against Doyle.
French Settlement coach Chase Delrie said the goal for his team was a bit different in facing the Wildcats.
“Compete,” he said. “I told the guys in the locker room, this is the defending 5A state champs. They’ve got two great players, and then they’ve got four or five really, really good players on top of that.
“The message to my guys was to learn a little bit more about ourselves. We wanted to come out, we wanted to be competitive, but we wanted to be tough. We wanted to play physical. We wanted to really just not come out here and get pushed around and stuff like that and then just kind of see where we’re at offensively and defensively.”
It didn’t take long for Walker (4-2) to get rolling. THe Wildcats took advantage of FSHS turnovers, keying a 13-0 run that ended on a Brian Thomas 3-pointer.
The Lions cut the lead to 18-6 on Will McMorris’ 3-pointer, but Jalen Cook’s 3-pointer keyed a 4-0 burst which put Walker up 22-6 heading into the second quarter.
Schiro praised his team’s defensive effort early in the game.
“I always tell the guys we need to be on a string,” he said. “If one guy moves, everybody else gets pulled by him, and we all rotate to the right spots, and I thought we did a fairly decent job of that to start the game.”
Five Walker players scored in the opening quarter, led by Thomas’ seven points, while Trent Montgomery and Cook each had six.
Montgomery finished with 12 points, all in the first half.
Walker didn’t let up, extending the lead to 32-10 on Montgomery’s putback. French Settlement’s Francis Hartwick followed with a 3-pointer, but Montgomery had six points and Thomas four during a 12-2 run to put the Wildcats up 44-15 at halftime.
“The physicality. The speed. The athleticism, and then you put all those things together, and … not only are they great athletes and physical specimens, but they play fundamental basketball together,” Delrie said of Walker. “That was the message for my guys to learn from as well.
“It’s just something, not only can we learn from what we didn’t do well, but we can learn from what they did well based on the film we get to see.”
Cook was the catalyst for Walker in the third quarter, scoring nine of his game-high 20 points primarily off transition baskets while helping the Wildcats build a 57-19 lead.
“When we play hard on defense, we feel like we can beat anybody any given night,” Cook said. “Playing hard on defense wins championships. Last year, it won championships. We just try to do it this year too.”
From there, the Lions worked the boards, sparking a 14-9 burst which cut the lead to 66-33 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Lions (4-4) also played without Edward Allison, who broke a toe in the win over Maurepas earlier in the tournament. Delrie is expecting him to be out about 10 games.
“It’s going to be tough on us,” Delrie said of losing Allison. “We lose a guy that comes off the bench because one guy’s to step into the starting lineup. When you playing against a team like this and you’re only playing seven guys, and they’re kind of running in nine or 10, it makes it tough, but that’s another thing I really want to compliment my guys on is that they didn’t make excuses.
“They played with as much effort and as much heart as they could tonight.”
Walker wasn’t done as Thomas, who finished with 17 points, hit a 3-pointer to key a 9-1 run to start the fourth quarter.
French Settlement’s Jonas LeBourgeois, who had 13 points, hit a pair of free throws with 4:32 to play, and Schiro pulled his starters for the remainder of the game after subbing all five out multiple times during the contest.
“Tonight, obviously was a great opportunity to get a lot of guys a lot of playing time,” Schiro said. “That’s always a good thing for us. We’re searching for some depth. Last year, we had a lot of depth. This year, we’re searching for those guys to step up, so any time we can get an opportunity to get some guys some playing time to see what they’re going to do in a game situation is a very valuable experience for us.”
Walker’s Matt Ellis hit a pair of threes in the fourth quarter as the Wildcats finished with eight in the game. Thomas and Cook each had three.
Keondre Brown scored in every quarter while chipping in 11 points for the Wildcats.
Cedric Witkowski added 10 points for the Lions.