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Portageville's Walker scores career-high 33 points in 59-50 win over NMCC

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Portageville's Dominique Walker (13) skies to the basket as NMCC defender Jayshawn McDaniel (22) attempts to block the shot on Friday at New Madrid County Central High School. Chris Pobst, Staff
NEW MADRID -- After having to deal with the dismissal of two key players, Dominique Walker has shouldered the load for the Portageville Bulldogs.

Walker scored a personal season high 33 points during the Bulldogs' 59-50 win over the New Madrid County Central Eagles on Friday night.

On top of his 33 points, Walker also pulled down seven rebounds.

"We've came together after that happened," Walker said. "We've had team meetings and just talked to each other about what we have to do to get better and come together as one. It's going along good."

Portageville, who has been without two players since Christmas, have relied on the athletic and versatile Walker to contribute any way he can.

"They've never really put their head down," Portageville head coach Jason Irby said about their adversity. "They've stuck it out and have gotten better every day. We're finally starting to click a little bit and gel with the guys in the new spots that they're in.

"They've persevered through all of it and I'm just really proud of them."

Although, it's been a transition for Walker himself, being the go-to guy and knowing the right time to take certain shots.

"The thing about Dominique is that we've been on him about shooting too many three's and falling in love with them," Irby said. "He did a good job of taking the ball to the basket and when he does that he's a lot harder to guard. By him going to the basket, it opened up some things on our offense.

"That's exactly what we want him to do."

Walker agreed with his coaches assesment.

"Coach told me to slow down, take good shots and the game will come to you," said Walker. "That's what I've been working on the last couple of weeks and it finally paid off."

The 6-2 junior pestered NMCC, who never held a lead, to no end. Each time the Eagles crept closer, Walker seemed to have an answer.

"He made us pay," NMCC head coach Travis Day said. "Any time we laid back on him and didn't move our feet against him, he got to the basket. I think the majority of his shots were layups."

After leading 17-9 after one quarter, NMCC cut Portageville's lead to five after a 3-pointer by Lamonte Nelson. Walker sank a 3-pointer himself during the Bulldogs' very next possession and went on to score 13 points in the second quarter while helping Portageville (18-4) push their lead to as much as 12 points.

Using a small 10-5 run, NMCC closed the gap to nine points at the half, 33-24 in favor of the Bulldogs.

The Eagles (8-14) could not establish an offensive rhythm in the early going. They shot 3 of 17 in the first quarter after missing their first eight shots. They finished the first half shooting 30 percent from the floor as Chilis Johnson led the Eagles with seven first half points.

"You can't complain about those shots because they were wide open and layups," said Day. "We were getting the shots that we wanted, we just weren't putting them in. It was that kind of game for us."

Walker scored nine of Portageville's 13 points in the third quarter including seven in a row after NMCC diminished their deficit to just five points.

The Bulldogs led by 10 going into the fourth quarter.

Although Portageville bolstered their lead to as much as 14 points in the fourth, a 10-2 run and eight fourth quarter turnovers by the Bulldogs put the Eagles right back into the game at 52-46.

"At the end (NMCC) went to a trapping defense and we had a hard time figuring it out," Irby said. "Once we found out where the holes were, I thought the kids did a good job of attacking it."

An offensive putback by freshman Willie Jimmerson with 1:35 remaining sliced Portageville's lead to 54-50, but NMCC missed their next six shots, including two layups that could have made it a 2-point game.

A combination of four Portageville players sank 5 of 8 free throws within the last 31 seconds to seal the win.

"I thought this game was our most complete effort," Irby said. "Except for a few bad possessions here and there, we played really hard and pretty smart for four quarters.

"It wasn't the prettiest finish, but on the road, we'll take it."

On top of Walker's dominant performance, Portageville controlled the glass with Birdwell, who stands at 6-5, pulling down 16 rebounds. NMCC was routinely limited to one shot a possession, although their one shot was usually the opportunity they were seeking.

"The key against them was rebounding," Walker said. "We came in with the mindset of 'We have to rebound.' Even though we've lost some key players, we can't let up.

"With (Birdwell) in the post, it's hard for anybody to come inside because he's forcing them to change their shot."

"I thought Zack (Birdwell) was huge for us on the glass," Irby added. "He cleaned up down there so well and we didn't give up second shots, which is big for us. Our kids just did a tremendous job defensively and that's what carried us in the fourth quarter when we were struggling to put them away."

Jimmerson led NMCC with 20 points including three 3-pointers. Nelson added eight points while Jashawn McDaniel and Johnson each chipped in seven.

"I don't think we were ever out of the game, even though it felt like, at times, we were down by 30," Day said. "We just didn't get the stops when we needed them."

The Eagles have one final regular season game against district opponent Caruthersville on Tuesday. They will play the Tigers once again in the first round of the Class 3, District 1 tournament on Feb. 27 at 5:30 at Bloomfield High School.

Portageville will travel to Scott City on Tuesday to take on the Rams for their last game of the regular season. They will begin Class 2, District 1 play on Feb. 27 against Campbell as the district's top seed at Hayti.


PORTAGEVILLE (59) -- Jansen Darst 3, Dion Foster 7, Dominique Walker 33, Zack Birdwell 8, Denzell Simmons 4, Cody Carpenter 3, Daniel Allen 1. FG 20 FT 15-28 F 14 (3-pointers: Darst 1, Walker 2, Carpenter 1. Fouled out: none.)

NMCC (50) -- Lamonte Nelson 8, Willie Jimmerson 20, Jashawn McDaniel 7, Dremoddre Wilson 2, CJ Chism 6, Chilis Johnson 7. FG 17 FT 10-13 F 23 (3-pointers: Nelson 2, Jimmerson 3, McDaniel 1. Fouled out: McDaniel.)

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