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MOUNT WASHINGTON - The final outcome was not what the Bullitt East Chargers were looking for last week in the Ashland Invitational Tournament, but when the dust had finally settled after a fifth-place finish, head coach Troy Barr was pleased with the way his team rallied after a poor opening game.
In fact, Barr took most of the blame for the Chargers’ opening 77-68 loss to Knott County Central.
“I wouldn’t say I was mad,” the veteran coach said of that first game, just the third loss this season for the red and gold. “I have been around long enough to know there are other factors involved.”
When Barr originally scheduled to return to Ashland to compete in one of the state’s oldest tournaments for the first time since 2004, he had wanted to leave on Sunday and to stop and practice at Morehead State, a school that is showing interest in senior center Corey Washburn. When that plan failed to materialize, Barr opted to speed another day of the holidays at home.
That made for a hectic day on Monday that led into the opening round loss.
“We drove up there the day we played,” Barr explained. “That was a three-hour bus trip after getting up at 8:30 a.m. Then we rushed to get into our rooms and to get a meal before we played at 4:30 p.m.
“Mentally and physically we weren’t ready to play,” the coach added. “I’ll take the blame for that.”
Bullitt East gave up 41 points in the first half and trailed by 12 points. The Chargers battled back to get within four points near the end of the third quarter and had the ball. They worked for a final shot, but took that shot too early. The shot was blocked and Knott County Central ran down and scored just before the buzzer. When the team scored the first basket of the fourth quarter it was more than Bullitt East could overcome.
The Chargers got 28 points from senior Hayden Sweat along with 12 from Corey Washburn and 10 by point guard Trey Rakes.
Bullitt East was outrebounded 28-25 in the loss.
The Chargers battled back a day later and beat a strong team from Russell 68-55. It was a much better start for the Chargers as they led by 12 points by halftime.
“We played better than the day before,” Barr recalled. “We were more energized.’
Bullitt East got 17 points from sophomore Derek Willis along with 15 points from Sweat.
On Wednesday, it was all Bullitt East as they left Ashland with the fifth-place trophy after blasting Highlands 71-41. The Chargers allowed the Bluebirds only ten points in the second half. With four minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Highlands had scored just five points in the second half.
“I really thought the kids executed the game plan perfectly,” Barr said. “They were very physical and structured. We sped them up and got into their bench and took advantage of that.”
The Chargers did trail 16-15 after the first quarter but then took a six-point advantage into halftime. It was all Bullitt East in the second half as they outscored the northern Kentucky school 34-10 over the final 16 minutes.
The red and gold got another big performance from Sweat as he led all scorers with 28 points. Troutman collected 14 points while Washburn had 13 points.
Bullitt East had its best rebounding game of the season as they had a 39-19 edge on the boards led by Willis with 11.
After the game, Sweat was named to the All-Tournament Team after scoring 71 points in three games including 15 three-pointers.
Ashland Invitational At Ashland HS
BULLITT EAST 68 (12-17-24-15) Trey Rakes 10, Cody Mattingly 1, Rusty Troutman 8, Hayden Sweat 28, Derek Willis 7, Corey Washburn 12, Chris Embry 2.
KNOTT COUNTY CENTRAL 77 (15-26-18-18) Adams 21, Sparkman 2, Davis 11, Roberts 20, Potter 4, Slone 19.
BULLITT EAST 68 (21-14-18-15) Trey Rakes 10, Cody Mattingly 5, Rusty Troutman 8, Hayden Sweat 15, Brett Hatfield 2, Chris Embry 3, Derek Willis 17, Reese Hardin 2, Corey Washburn 6.
RUSSELL 55 (7-16-10-22) Hayes 6, Porter 5, Pursley 2, McKenzie 4, Hunt 23, Davidson 13, Bailey 2.
BULLITT EAST 71 (15-22-16-18) Trey Rakes 4, Cody Mattingly 2, Rusty Troutman 14, Hayden Sweat 28, Derek Willis 4, Corey Washburn 13, Chris Embry 2.
HIGHLANDS 41 (16-15-3-7) Crowley 14, Lewis 8, Towles 12, Wittz 3, True 4.