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SHEPHERDSVILLE - With a 22-3 lead five minutes into the game, the Bullitt East Chargers on Monday night flexed their considerable muscle and defeated Bullitt Central 88-61 before a large and boisterous crowd in the Cougars’ Den.
In the past, when the second meeting of the season between the two rivals has been held in Shepherdsville, the contest has been tight. That was the case last year as Bullitt East, with a team that would reach the semi-finals of the state tournament, had to rally in the fourth quarter for a 52-51 victory.
Bullitt East head coach Troy Barr reminded his team of that game and also pointed out that in two previous instances this season that his team had dropped the second meeting against a team that they had beaten earlier (both Butler and Ballard). The Chargers had beaten Bullitt Central 98-62 back on Dec. 2 in Mount Washington.
“We talked about that all week,” Barr said after the game. “We emphasized it. I told them that we would not face a team this season more focused on beating us than Bullitt Central. Winning tonight shows we can be special.”
With 6-9 junior Derek Willis playing for the Chargers, they will always be special. Willis, who has committed to the University of Kentucky already, exploded for a career-high 39 points on Monday as he hit 10 of his 11 shots from the field as well as a pair of three-pointers. At the foul line, Willis made 13 of his 14 chances and he also pulled down ten rebounds.
“Derek showed why he is going to UK,” Barr said. “I know people have put stuff out there about him competing at that level. All the things that he did tonight shows what he can do.”
Bullitt East (21-4) also got 21 points from junior Rusty Troutman who nailed five three-pointers including three in the first quarter when he scored 11 points.
Barr had been disappointed with his team’s performance three nights earlier in an easy win over North Bullitt, especially with the fact that they had been outscored in the third quarter. Against Bullitt Central, the Chargers came out of the halftime break with a 41-24 edge and then scored the first seven points of the second half to erase any hope the Cougars had of making it a game.
If you believe the Associated Press poll of Kentucky boys’ basketball teams, this was a battle of top-10 teams in the state. Bullitt East has been ranked among the top seven teams all season while somehow Bullitt Central has been gaining votes and on Tuesday was ranked tenth in the state (the Pioneer News does not have a vote in the AP poll) with Bullitt East seventh.
That news was little consolation for the Cougars on Monday as they had no answer for the taller Chargers. The one silver-lining for the maroon and gray was that unlike an earlier loss to Moore, another team ranked among the top-10 teams in the state, the Cougars continued to play hard after falling behind early.
After the horrible start, Bullitt Central (19-8) did battle back to within 15 points late in the first half. The margin ballooned to 24 points early in the second half, but the Cougars did get back to within 16 points when senior Caleb Craddock scored the first basket of the fourth quarter.
“They shot it will to start,” Bullitt Central head coach Joe Pat Lee said after his team’s third straight loss. “Then we lost some guys and left them wide open. Then we settled for some bad shots. When you do that, you give up run-outs. That’s what happened in that first quarter.
“From that point on we played pretty even,” the coach added. “We just couldn’t get stops and that’s tough to do against them because we don’t have size.
“We just don’t have an answer for Derek,” Lee said of the obvious. “He had 39 and then Rusty had 21. We did a lot of good stuff and battled. But against a team like Bullitt East you can’t battle back from that type of deficit.”
Craddock finished with 23 points for Bullitt Central while fellow seniors Ryan Schnellenberger and Damon Shepherd scored 16 and 15 points, respectively.
Bullitt East will close out the regular season on Thursday when they conduct Senior Night when they play host to Elizabethtown. The varsity contest will start at 7:30 p.m.
Bullitt Central will look for it’s 20th win on Friday when they travel into Jefferson County to take on Atherton. That game is part of a girl/boy doubleheader that starts at 6 p.m.
Monday at Bullitt Central
BULLITT EAST 88 (27-14-23-24) Trey Rakes 7, Rusty Troutman 21, Derek Jones 6, Kory Caufield 6, Tyler Sharpe 3, Chris Embry 5, Derek Willis 39, Andrew Okruch 1.
BULLITT CENTRAL 61 (11-13-22-15) Caleb Craddock 23, Ryan Schnellenberger 16, Damon Shepherd 15, Corey Smith 2, Jeff Larison 2, Aaron Duckett 3.