Walker cruises to win over ESJ behind big second half
Published 12:00 am Monday, December 22, 2008
By RYAN ARENA
Within a span of 16 seconds, O. Perry Walker players missed two dunks and a lob pass in the dwindling moments of their game at East St. John on Tuesday night.
But nobody cared about those blunders. Those were about the only things that went awry for the Chargers.
What was a close game throughout the first half quickly became a blowout as Walker imposed its will, leaving the Wildcats’ gym with an 88-60 non-district victory.
The Chargers (11-2) outscored ESJ (4-7) 46-27 in the second half, and turned the fourth quarter into their own personal highlight reel before it was all said and done. Walker slammed home three dunks — successfully — to punctuate fast breaks, and never took its foot off the gas pedal.
Walker showed exactly why it advanced to the Class 4A championship game a season ago, and why it’s widely considered one of the favorites to return.
“We made it an up and down game, and that’s what we strive for,” said Walker Coach Brian Gibson. “That’s when we’re at our best, no doubt.”
Colby Carr scored 19 to lead four Chargers in double digits.
Malcom Lago scored 15 to lead the Wildcats. Lucas Martin scored 11, and Brashad Hawkins added 10.
The frenzied pace of the game contributed to a 47 combined turnovers between the teams — 26 by ESJ.
But despite 16 of them in the first half, the Wildcats seemed to have an answer for Walker’s pressing and trapping style. Repeatedly, East St. John would leak past the defense down the court in the first half and get to the rim, often triggered by an outlet pass over the top of the Walker defenders.
“We prepared for them to try to hit us with those outlets for quick scores,” said Gibson. “But I think they did a better job than we anticipated.”
The Chargers led by three after a quarter, and scored three quick buckets to go ahead 24-15. But East St. John pushed back. A Hawkins jumper triggered a 11-2 run, and Lago’s put back of a Martin miss tied the game at 26 with 4:26 remaining in the first half.
After a Wildcats steal, Martin broke loose for a layup to cut a 3-point Chargers lead to 29-28. But Walker’s explosive nature reared its head again, and a Chris Covington basket triggered a quick 11-2 run of its own to pull ahead 39-30. Walker led 42-33 at halftime, and their end of the half surge was a sign of things to come.
A short jumper by ESJ’s Anthony Dawson made it 44-36, two minutes into the third quarter. And that’s when Walker kicked it into overdrive. It held East St. John scoreless over the next three minutes of play, while scoring 10 over the same span.
With 4:09 left in the quarter, Jarvis Ray slammed home a dunk to make it 51-36, serving to swing momentum permanently in Walker’s favor. Another rim-rattling jam by Jamal Silas drew a foul with 17 seconds left, a score that put Walker ahead 63-44 at the end of the third quarter.
That proved to be a dagger. ESJ couldn’t muster another push.
Gibson said his team adjusted its defensive plan at halftime.
“We wanted to make them play a more possession style of ball, so we could get into our trap,” said Gibson. “The great thing about this team is that they’ll adjust to what is going on around them.”