Walker girls win at Denham, await playoff seed

The Walker girls basketball team overcame early off-court adversity this season to reach Friday's finale at Denham Springs seeking the District 4-5A championship.

A little on-court adversity? No sweat.

The Lady Cats overcame a 10-point deficit in the final 5 minutes, using a stunning 18-0 run to finish a 58-50 victory over the rival Yellow Jackets and win district for the first time since 2015.

LSU signee Tiara Young scored 13 of her game-high 35 points and had seven of her 12 total rebounds in the decisive fourth quarter.

Walker trailed by 17 after the first quarter.

"They pulled together," acting Walker coach Hannah Jones said. "They understood they were down and had to keep fighting, and they kept fighting. It was fun to watch. I couldn't believe it was happening."

With the win, Walker avenged a 54-38 loss to Denham in the Livingston Parish tournament championship game back in December.

The Lady Cats were on a 10-game winning streak as they awaited their opponent in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs Thursday. Walker was expected to receive a top-three seed.

It is the kind of run many expected of Walker after Young transferred from Evangel as the reigning 5A Player of the Year and one of the South's top college prospects. But the Lady Cats were dealt a serious blow just before the season began when coach Korey Arnold was suspended for one calendar year by the LHSAA — and three players were ruled ineligible — as part of recruiting sanctions against the school.

The players were later reinstated, but a planned appeal of Arnold's suspension in January was abruptly withdrawn.

"It meant the world to them (winning district) because they have been faced with a lot of adversity," said Jones, a former Walker player who steadied the Lady Cats in Arnold's absence."It was a goal they had wanted to meet, and they met it by fighting through all the adversity."

As the Lady Cats turn their focus to the postseason, they have more than their district championship to celebrate.

Walker will play all its home playoff games in the school's brand-new gym, with its video boards, NBA-style goals and more than 2,000 seats. The Lady Cats practiced in their new digs for the first time Sunday night.

The new gym faces Florida Boulevard on the south side of campus.

"It makes it that much more exciting," Jones said of playing in the new gym. "I hope it gives people in the community one more reason to want to come out and watch us."

The Lady Cats help lead an impressive list of Livingston Parish teams that head into the playoffs with the hopes of making a memorable run.

Denham Springs, which entered the Walker game with a perfect district record, was also in line for a top-10 seed in the 5A bracket.

In 3A, Albany, which fell in the semifinals last year, trailed only defending state champ Loranger and Madison Prep in the power ratings entering Friday's action. In 2A, Doyle was No. 1 in the power ratings with four losses all season.

Defending state champ Holden was at No. 6 in the power ratings in Class B after overcoming a slow start to the season. The Lady Rockets won 15 of their final 16 regular-season games, including a 67-65 victory over Albany.

The girls state tournament is Feb. 25-March 2 at the Rapides Coliseum in Alexandria.

Brackets were to be released Monday.

Walker boys christen new gym with win

The Walker boys were the first team to take the floor in the school's new gym.

The Wildcats opened the impressive new facility with an 81-55 victory over Denham Springs on Friday night as the Wildcats marched closer to joining the girls as 4-5A champions.

Jalen Cook with 32 points and Brian Thomas with 25 did the bulk of the scoring for Walker, which extended its winning streak to six games. The Wildcats improved to 4-0 in district ahead of matchups with Live Oak and Central to close the regular season.

Dodson wins state, Live Oak wrestling finishes fourth

Anthony Dodson returned from the state wrestling meet in Bossier City as the state champion at 138 pounds in Division II and was one of five Live Oak wrestlers to place.

Dodson won his title by pinning Jacob Ramirez, of Rummel, in 3 minutes, 14 seconds.

In the team competition, Parkway was the overall Division II winner with 288 points, followed by Teurlings Catholic as the runner-up and third-place North DeSoto. Live Oak finished fourth with 184 points.

Clayton Hill joined Dodson in the finals, falling to Parkway's Trey Fontenot to finish as the state runner-up at 120 pounds. Jordan Griffin (145) and Nawab Singh (160) both finished third for Live Oak. Andrew Lusby placed (106) fifth.

Scott Hotard covers sports for The Livingston-Tangipahoa Advocate. He can be contacted at shotard44@gmail.com or livingston@theadvocate.com.