With what amounted to a junior varsity roster playing a varsity schedule, Walker High boys basketball coach Anthony Schiro figured the 2015-16 season could be very much a roller-coaster.
There have been far more ups than downs, however, for a team that entered District 4-5A play this week as one of the area’s most pleasant surprises.
Walker won its last nine games of the nondistrict schedule, capped by a three-game sweep of Woodlawn, Dutchtown and Catholic over a five-day stretch. The Wildcats (17-4) were scheduled to face Central at home in their 4-5A opener on Tuesday night.
“I knew going into the season that we could be competitive,” Schiro said, “but I really thought there would be some rebuilding.”
Schiro said part of the challenge was getting the young Wildcats, who have only one senior and one junior in a program dominated by sophomores and freshmen, to believe they could compete consistently against older and more experienced opponents.
That goal was achieved in mid-December when Walker shocked Denham Springs on a last-second basket in the championship game of the Livingston Parish tournament.
The Wildcats have lost only once since then.
“I think what’s making us go is we don’t have one guy who’s a so-called superstar,” Schiro said. “We’re very team-oriented. If you take away one guy, we’ve got another one who’s willing to step up.”
Sophomore Dalton Moore was the team’s leading scorer during non district play with an average of 14.5 points per game. Junior Jacobi Scott was also in double figures with an average of 12.4 points.
Sophomore Darius Hampton, a star receiver on the football team, was averaging 9.6 points to go with 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
Perennial heavyweight Scotlandville is the prohibitive favorite in 4-5A after reaching the Class 5A championship game each of the past six seasons and winning state titles three of the past four years. Point guard Javonte Smart is one of the nation’s top sophomores.
Behind the Hornets is a cluster of teams with similar ré sumé s that Schiro expects to create a compelling five-week battle for additional playoff berths.
Live Oak and Denham Springs are two of the district’s other teams with designs on challenging for a playoff spot and were schedule to meet in another 4-5A opener Tuesday night.
Live Oak (14-7) continued a breakthrough season under first-year coach Gary Duhe by winning its last four non-district games. The Eagles entered 4-5A action having already won eight more games than they did during the entire 2014-15 campaign.
Denham Springs (9-11) also entered district play on a four-game winning streak as the Yellow Jackets were back on track after dealing with a rash of injuries early in the season.
Denham girls keep rolling
The Denham Springs girls basketball team entered 4-5A play on an 11-game winning streak and scored two more impressive wins to start the district season.
In the district opener against Walker, the Yellow Jackets rolled to a 55-31 victory behind big nights from junior Tremeeka Spikes and senior Alexis McMorris. Spikes led all scorers with 21 points and McMorris, a Walker transfer, finished with 18.
Denham (19-2) followed that win with a 75-43 rout of Scotlandville in its first district road game.
The Yellow Jackets were scheduled to play at Live Oak on Tuesday before returning home for another district game Friday night against Zachary.