By Marco Clark, exclusive to the Times
Natchitoches Central was set to square off against the Walker Wildcats in a rematch from 2017, a game that NCHS won by two points. There was no doubt Walker had revenge on their mind. Picking up action in the first quarter, Walker won opening tip-off but turned the ball over to the Chiefs. Walker’s Jalen Cook mishandled the ball and sent it out of bounds. The Chiefs Brian White received the inbound pass and took it up the court to find Toney Preylo. Preylo passed back to White in the paint for a two-point lay-up giving the Chiefs the first score of the night. The Wildcats inbounded the ball to Cook who advanced the ball down the court and found an open Jalen Perkins behind the three-point line. Perkins shoots and scores giving the Wildcats a one-point lead.
The Chiefs took possession of the basketball, but had it stolen by Perkins who set up behind the three-point line for another three. NCHS inbounded the ball to White who dribbled past the time line and passed to Desmond Vaughn. Vaughn passes to Calvin Carpenter for the shot, but he misses the mark. Cook comes up with the rebound to find freshman Brian Thomas. Thomas sets to shoot but has his shot partially blocked by Carpenter sending the ball sailing out of bounds.
Thomas steps up for a second attempt to give the Wildcats a six-point lead, 8-2. Coach Micah Coleman calls a time out. NCHS came out of the time out fired up and it showed. Natchitoches Central went on 6-0 run to shorten the gap Walker built early. Both teams continued to play hard for the remainder of the opening quarter. White would close the first quarter by hitting a huge three-point shot to shorten Walker’s lead to two. At the start of the second quarter, White hit two to knot it up at 19-19.
Walker inbounded the ball to Cook who found a streaking Perkins in the paint for a lay-up giving the lead back to Walker. The pace in the second quarter slowed after a fast and furious start in the first. NCHS and Walker miss open shots from the perimeter, forcing Walker’s head coach Anthony Schiro to call a timeout. The Wildcats came out of the timeout scoring six unanswered points to put the Wildcats ahead 25-22.
Adrian Remo answered back by hitting a three-pointer to cut the lead in half. Walker answered the Chiefs score with a four-point run of their own to close out the first half with a five-point lead, 33-28. The third quarter was all Walker. The Wildcats built a nine-point lead and never looked back. The Chiefs, on the other hand, could not get any offense going, with three turnovers and going 0-5 from the field resulting in the largest lead for the Wildcats, 49-39.
Coach Coleman called the first timeout of the second half to regroup his players, but it did not translate on the court for the Chiefs. Missed shots and poor defense put the Wildcats ahead by 14 points. The Wildcats went on to close out the third quarter with a 60-46 lead. The fourth quarter picks up with Walker taking possession of the ball and wasting little time scoring to increase their lead to 15-points.
The Chiefs’ woes continued as they were unable to get any offensive momentum going, while the Wildcats were hitting on all cylinders putting Walker up by as much as 23 points. With less than 3 minutes left on the clock the Chiefs’ hopes of returning to the championship game were all but dashed, but NCHS continued to fight to the last second ticked off the clock. The Walker Wildcats took a 79-53 victory.
The Chiefs finished the season with a 38-5 record, a district championship and a Final Four appearance.