Zachary ousts Walker from playoffs

WALKER — Zachary High was the No. 22 seed and the underdog. But with Lilly Snowden scoring a game-high 23 points, the Broncos proved they had Walker High’s number.

Snowden cashed in on mid-range jumpers all night, including one with 1:46 left that gave her team the lead for good as Zachary notched a 48-40 victory over No. 11 Walker to open the Class 5A girls basketball playoffs Monday night at WHS’ Glen Ellis Gym.

“When the bracket came out, they (Zachary) were definitely the team I didn’t want to see,” Walker coach Korey Arnold said. “I knew matchup-wise, they were going to give us trouble. And they’d beat us once in district, and we’d beaten them. I knew it could go either way.”

With the victory, Zachary (16-15) is now set to host No. 6 Sulphur in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association playoff regional round. Mariah Wright and Jasmine Mitchell each added eight points for the Broncos. Mitchell had 11 rebounds for a ZHS team that got an unexpected boost from the return of coach April Brown Barnes to the sideline.

Though assistant coach Patrick Jenkins led the way, Barnes, a former LSU player, was a vocal presence as the game went on. Barnes, who is due to deliver her first child in just over a month, was put on bed rest midway through the District 4-5A season.

“I just couldn’t stay away,” Barnes said. “These girls have worked so hard. I had to be here.”

Walker finishes 23-8. Lexi McMorris came off the bench to score 14 points for the Wildcats, while Mi’ca Lowe added 13.

“We did keep our composure,” Jenkins said. “We’ve played a lot of close games this year. Our record is not an indicator of what type of team we are. We’ve played top 10 teams the whole year. I think that has prepared us for games like this.

“Lilly did a great job for us tonight. That mid-range jumper is a sweet jumper for her. She strokes it with confidence.”

Walker scored the game’s first two points on a drive by Lowe. But the Wildcats didn’t score another field goal in the second quarter.

Snowden keyed the charge for Zachary, making four straight mid-range jumpers around the lane, including a jumper that gave ZHS an 8-2 lead with 3:56 to go.

The pace slowed after that. Wright’s layup made it a 10-2 game before Zachary took a 10-5 lead into the second quarter.

Jamie Gibson followed up a teammate’s miss at the 6:54 mark in the second quarter to give Walker its first basket since the opening seconds. At that point, the Wildcats trailed 11-7.

Zachary went on to extend its lead to eight points, at 17-9, on a layup by Mitchell. Walker scored eight of the final 10 points in the half. Lowe and Megan Strange each had two baskets to power the charge. A basket by Lowe with 12.6 seconds left pulled Walker within two points, at 19-17, by halftime.

Zachary managed to keep the Wildcats at arm’s length through the third quarter and led 33-25 going into the fourth quarter.

Walker upped its intensity on defense and forced seven fourth-quarter turnovers. McMorris made two 3-pointers and Gibson added one to fuel the rally.

The home team finally tied it at 38-38 on two free throws by Lowe with 3:05 remaining. The teams traded baskets before Snowden netted the go-ahead jumper with 1:46 left, making it a 42-40 game.

The Wildcats didn’t have an answer this time. Snowden also made two free throws with 14.6 seconds left when WHS was forced to foul

“The coaches told me I had to move without the ball and meet the passes and just let go,” Snowden said. “It was time to step up for my team.”