After what was truly a banner year in 2018, it is doubtful that any team will take third-seeded Walker High for granted. That is just fine by the defending Class 5A champions and their coach, Anthony Schiro.
“You know, that actually is a good problem to have,” Schiro said of the heightened expectations his team faces. “I think most coaches would tell you they would prefer that … to be considered relevant. Of course, there are challenges that come with that too.”
The Wildcats (25-9) host No. 30 seed H.L. Bourgeois (17-14) for a bidistrict playoff game at 7 p.m. Friday. The game is part of a busy bidistrict schedule that also features a 5A nonselect game that matches No. 23 Denham Springs (18-16) traveling to 10th-seeded East Ascension (19-14).
Some things have changed since last season when then fourth-seeded Walker advanced to the LHSAA tourney for the first time since the 1960s and won the 5A title, beating Landry-Walker 62-57 in overtime.
The Wildcats took a few lumps during the tournament season, but have settled in, winning 10 of their past 11, including a District 4-5A title punctuated by a road win over traditional power Scotlandville. The loss was Scotlandville’s first at home since 2011. Walker also moved into its new gym a week ago.
“Once the tournaments were over, we were able to get back in the gym more and work on some things that needed a little fine-tuning,” Schiro said. “I think guys settled into their roles more. We’ve also had some younger guys step up who are capable of giving us quality minutes. … Something we did not have early in the year.”
Junior guard Jalen Cook leads WHS with a 28.8 scoring average and is now considered to be one of the state's top players. Sophomore Brian Thomas, the title-game MVP last season as a freshman, adds 17.9 per game.
Despite the added attention the Wildcats have received, Schiro said they are not about to overlook H.L. Bourgeois.
“This is not what I would call a typical 3 vs. 30 match-up,” Schiro said. “They are very athletic, well-coached and their guards are very good. This is not a team us, or anybody else, should overlook.”
Knights play early
Most select schools won’t open their playoffs until next week. Episcopal (25-8), last year’s Division III runner-up, is an exception.
The third-seeded Knights host No. 14 Ascension Episcopal at 6:30 p.m. Friday.