WALKER — Guard Darius Hampton helped deliver Walker to the Livingston Parish tournament championship last weekend with a dramatic back-door layup.
The late game heroics lifted the Wildcats to a one-point victory over Denham Springs and capped a three-game run to the current group of players’ first such crown.
Despite a roster with one senior and a junior, Walker displayed the ability to keep such success in perspective. The Wildcats overcame a late first-quarter deficit with a balanced scoring effort and near flawless free-throw shooting in an 81-68 victory Tuesday over Baker.
“I was kind of worried about the letdown,” Walker coach Anthony Schiro said. “I told them that before the game and challenged them after the first quarter. I thought they responded from the second quarter on.”
Walker (7-3) capitalized on its precision motion offense and running game in the second quarter to shoot 57 percent for the game.
Dalton Moore scored a game-high 28 points to lead four players in double figures along with Jacobi Scott (15), Hampton (14) and Josh Cook (13).
“Walker’s well coached and they’re a good ballclub,” Baker coach James Holmes said. “They’re going to be scary.
“Our guys needed to come and play a quality program like Walker. We’re up and coming.”
Holmes, who previously coached for seven years at Family Christian, has already helped Baker (6-4) match its win total of a year ago in his first season.
Behind the combination of Ronnie Hamilton and Kenny Joseph, the Buffaloes broke a 10-10 tie with a 7-0 spurt for their biggest lead of the game on Joseph’s two free throws.
Joseph wound up with 13 of his 22 points in the first half, while Hamilton matched him with 22.
Walker, which finished on a 6-0 run and trailed 20-19 after the first quarter, made its first six field goals of the second quarter.
Cook knocked down a 12-footer and followed Le Davis’ miss for a 35-25 lead with 3:39 left before halftime.
The Wildcats led 41-34 after Hamilton’s 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left.
“Once we got the ball out wide, filled the lanes like we’re supposed to and made some good passes, we got the running game going and got some easy layups,” Schiro said. “We got a lead and our guys did a great job once they got to the free throw line.”
Joseph’s 3-pointer — Baker’s lone 3-pointer in seven attempts in the second half — brought the Buffaloes to within 47-40 at the 6:24 mark before Moore scored seven points, including a three-point play, and Garrett Carlise’s two throws made it 62-47 with 2:38 showing.
Moore converted a pair of three-point plays midway through the fourth quarter for a 79-64 advantage, and it wasn’t until Cook’s miss on the back end of a one-and-one that Walker, which went 22 of 23 from the free-throw line, missed its first free throw.
“They’re a bunch of young guys learning how to finish and win games,” Schiro said. “I’m proud of them for finishing the way they did.”