ZACHARY — Some things didn’t go right for Walker and Zachary in their girls basketball showdown Friday night. Consider 7-for-26 shooting from the field in the first quarter or the third quarter in which the two teams combined to score just seven points.
Walker made 10 free throws during the final 3:35 to claw its way past Zachary 44-41 in a game at ZHS that decided the District 4-5A title.
“It was ugly, but it was fun,” Walker coach Korey Arnold said as he gave ZHS coach April Barnes a hug after the high-octane, high-emotion game.
“One word will sum that up ... ugly,” Arnold said. “Our first goal was the (Livingston) Parish championship and our second goal was the district title. I told the girls to enjoy it, but don’t be satisfied. There’s a lot of learning opportunities from this game.”
The coaches learned a great deal about their teams. Senior-laden Walker and a young Zachary squad that features nine freshmen battled point-for-point much of the way.
Kacie Fountain and Jamie Gibson each had 14 points and Keona Brown added 13 for Walker (27-5, 10-2). Gibson made six free throws in the final 3:35 while Fountain sank four.
Bryana Langford led Zachary (21-10, 9-3) with 12 points and Jamecia Profit added 10. Both teams advance to the 5A playoffs next week. The LHSAA releases its playoff pairings on Monday.
Walker scored the game’s first five points as Zachary missed its first five shots. The Wildcats extended their lead to 9-2 when Gibson drove to the basket for a layup with 2:44 left. Baskets by Rayah Haynes, Jamecia Profit and Bryana Langford got the Broncos within one before the quarter ended.
Zachary finally claimed the lead at 14-13 on a bucket by Profit with 4:51 to go in the half. The teams traded the lead three more times. Fountain’s layup sent Walker into the locker room with at 17-16 lead.
In contrast to the third quarter, the teams combined for 45 fourth-quarter points. A sequence that started with a personal foul and a technical foul on Zachary during a scramble for the ball was decisive.
It looked like Walker might lose some momentum when Brown fouled out. Seconds later, the battle for the ball ensued. Fountain and Gibson each made two free throws and the Wildcats led by eight at 36-28.
“I told them don’t help them beat you,” Barnes said. “You just play basketball, and if they beat you that’s one thing, but don’t help them. Getting that technical foul, you helped them.”
Officials called the foul on Rayah Haynes and the technical on Aleah Haynes, a play Barnes said was uncharacteristic of her young guard.
“She’s a good kid … she lost her cool at the wrong time,” Barnes said. “I told them you get one more (playoff game). Learn from this. We’ve made tremendous strides and I’m proud of them.”
The game was hardly over after Walker extended its lead. Langford made two jumpers from the left corner and Kenadi Johnson scored on a 3-pointer that made it 42-39 with 22.8 seconds left.
Though the Wildcats failed to capitalize fully on some other free throw chances, Gibson made two more free throws with 7.9 seconds remaining to help clinch the win.
“It was a battle,” Gibson said. “Zachary’s a good team. It (winning district title) feels good.”