SHEPHERDSVILLE - After winning its first two games in the Lady Panther Winter Classic at Pleasure Ridge Park High School, the Bullitt Central Lady Cougars moved into rarefied air on Saturday for the semi-finals.
The other three teams in the semi-finals were the first- and fifth-ranked teams in Kentucky in the pre-season coaches’ poll along with one of the top teams from Indiana.
In the end, Bullitt Central lost the semi-finals to Franklin-Simpson, last year’s state runner-up, by a 63-46 margin. Then, in the third-place game hours later, the Lady Cougars didn’t have the legs to stay with Jeffersonville, Indiana as they were beaten 71-34.
Still, it was a very strong showing for a Bullitt Central team that is 6-3 heading into a short Christmas break.
“We were facing very good competition,” Lady Cougar head coach Bryan Bates said earlier this week. “We were in very good company.
“We did a good job to get to the semi-finals,” the coach added. “We played Franklin-Simpson a good game. It was 10 or 12 points with four minutes to play.”
But then the Lady Cougars just ran out of gas.
“When you shoot a lot of threes, the first thing to go is your legs,” Bates pointed out. “The third day we were tired and we didn’t shoot as well as we normally do.
“I’m really proud of fourth place in that tournament,” the coach concluded. “That is very good.”
The tournament was eventually won by Iroquois, the top-ranked team in Kentucky.
This was the second year for the event that is conducted by Buddy Fluhr, the PRP head coach who was an assistant at Bullitt Central under Bates until taking the PRP job two years ago.
Fern Creek First
In the opening game on Thursday, Bullitt Central saw an old face as former teammate Genell Smith took the floor for Fern Creek. She played at Bullitt Central the past two seasons before transferring into Jefferson County over the summer.
Smith scored 11 points but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Lady Cougars won 86-63.
“The Fern Creek game was the best game we have played so far,” Bates said. “Our defense was great and our offense was really good. We ran the floor as well as we have all year. When you score 86 points you must be playing well.”
Bullitt Central connected on ten three-pointers including five from senior Lindsay Hester who led all scorers in the game with 25 points. The team also got 18 points from Qualeatha Bennett and 13 from Keoka Hilliard.
Rematch in Quarter-Finals
That set up a rematch with Holy Cross, a team that Bullitt Central had beaten just three weeks earlier. Holy Cross had been ranked higher than the Lady Cougars entering the season in the Sixth Region, but Bates’ team used a 35-19 advantage in the second half to claim a 53-43 victory.
It’s hard to play any team twice in such a short period of time.
“It’s very hard,” Bates noted. “They are a good team. They are pretty equal to us. It’s a good match-up. We played a really good second half and beat them.”
The game was tied at 33-33 entering the fourth quarter before Bullitt Central exploded for 20 points over the last eight minutes.
“The big motivation there was that the girls didn’t want to have to play at 9 a.m. the next morning,” Bates said with a smile.
Hester again scored 25 points while Hilliard tossed in nine points.
State Power Next
The Lady Cougars had the legs to stay with Franklin-Simpson but maybe not quite the experience at this stage of the campaign. Three games in less than three days is not something Bullitt Central has done recently while Franklin-Simpson went through the State Tournament last season.
“I told their coach after the game that they were used to playing that many games in such a short time,” Bates noted. “They are very talented, very solid and very athletic.”
Bullitt Central made just four three-pointers in this game, two each by Hester and Logan Wood.
Hester finished with 14 points while Bennett scored 13.
No Legs Remaining
For the fourth game in less than 72 hours, the Lady Cougars just ran out of steam against Jeffersonville, one of the top teams in Indiana. Bullitt Central had a season-low 34 points and made just 12 of 51 shots.
Amazingly, Bates’ team made more three-point shots than those inside the arc. The team made seven three-pointers and just five two-pointers.
“They were giving us open threes,” Bates noted. “If we’re open we’ll shoot it. We just didn’t have the legs to make them.”
Hester made three of those long shots and scored 16 points. No other Lady Cougar scored more than four points.
After such a hectic week, Bates practiced the team lightly on Monday and Tuesday and then gave them four days off for the holiday. The team will return to action on Monday in Frankfort in an 8-team tournament at Western Hills High School.
Lady Panther Winter Classic
At Pleasure Ridge Park High School
BULLITT CENTRAL 86 (23-22-22-19) Lindsay Hester 25, Qualeatha Bennett 18, Janie Baumgardner 5, Keoka Hilliard 13, Valerie Terry 8, Logan Wood 2, Ashleigh Pollard 5, Rebecca Farber 4, Danielle Bivens 2, Kaitlyn McKnight 4.
FERN CREEK 63 (12-14-18-19) Baker 4, Moore 2, Bernard 6, Smith 11, McCune 14, Grigsby 16, Fife 7, Jones 3.
BULLITT CENTRAL 53 (5-13-15-20) Lindsay Hester 25, Qualeatha Bennett 6, Janie Baumgardner 5, Keoka Hilliard 9, Valerie Terry 4, Logan Wood 2.
HOLY CROSS 43 (12-12-9-10) Boone 2, Moore 15, Roarx 8, Floyd 6, Deckard 10, Mingus 2.
BULLITT CENTRAL 46 (8-12-11-15) Lindsay Hester 14, Qualeatha Bennett 13, Janie Baumgardner 2, Keoka Hilliard 4, Valerie Terry 4, Logan Wood 6, Ashleigh Pollard 1, Seaera Minyard 2.
FRANKLIN-SIMPSON 63 (19-15-17-12) Bryant 6, Lunsford 2, Cook 6, D. Gooch 17, Nolan 4, Payne 12, C. Gooch 16.
BULLITT CENTRAL 34 (4-11-9-10) Lindsay Hester 16, Qualeatha Bennett 4, Janie Baumgardner 3, Keoka Hilliard 3, Logan Wood 3, Danielle Bivens 2, Kaitlyn McKnight 3.
JEFFERSONVILLE, IN. 71 (14-24-19-12) Renstrem 9, Williams 10, Weatherspoon 4, Valentine 4, Brendle 4, Gholson 10, Samuel 6, McClain 22, Kinnard 4.