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LOUISVILLE - On a night where defense trumped offense, the Bullitt East Lady Chargers held all the high cards in the early season Sixth Region Showdown on Tuesday with Butler.
In the battle between the top two teams in the pre-season coaches’ poll in the region, as well as two of the top 25 teams in the state, Bullitt East won with a gutsy defensive performance. The Lady Chargers won on a night where they shot just 27 percent from the field and 42 percent from the free throw line because they did just about everything else well to pull out the 42-35 victory.
“They stayed positive and fought through some mistakes,” veteran Bullitt East head coach Chris Stallings said after the game. “They weren’t making shots and we stayed positive. It was a typical early season game. We still have a long way to go until March.”
There really was no scoring punch in this game and no extended offensive streaks. This was more a marathon than a sprint.
“For such an early season game, I was really proud of our team just grinding it out,” Stallings said. “We were on the road tonight and against a team we haven’t had a lot of success against.”
Bullitt East won the Eighth Region title in 2004 and then lost to Butler in the first round of the state tournament. Since moving to the Sixth Region in 2006, the Lady Chargers have not beaten the Bearettes.
Now, at least until the Louisville Invitational Tournament in late January, it is Bullitt East that sits at the top of the local hoops hierarchy.
“This was a nice win over a quality opponent,” Stallings noted. “When you get ones like this, it is always nice.”
Butler opened the fourth quarter with a basket from Whitney Reed that pushed them ahead 30-29. With 4:48 remaining in the game, a free throw by the Bearettes’ Daija Ruffin put Butler up 33-31, their biggest lead of the second half.
Bullitt East then quickly tied the game by going inside to 6-2 junior Lindey Young for the score. The Lady Chargers took the lead for good when senior Jade Troutman took a pass on the left wing and nailed a three-pointer, her third of the game.
Butler did get two free throws from Mariah Corey with just under three minutes left in the game, but the Bearettes would not score again.
Over the first three-and-half quarters, Bullitt East had connected on just four of 14 free throw attempts. Over the final three minutes of the game, the red and gold were six of 10 at the charity stripe and kept Butler at a safe distance.
In their two scrimmages, Bullitt East hit on about 75 percent of their foul shots. Through the first three games of the regular season, all wins, the Lady Chargers have yet to shoot over 50 percent at the free throw line.
“We did hit a decent number down the stretch,” Stallings said. “We’ll continue to work on it. I feel like we have good shooters. We have to turn that into a strength. A lot of that improvement will depend on how much we want to work.”
It didn’t look like either team would muster any offense in this battle as the first 14 shots all rolled off the rims. Bullitt East finally got a basket from Kayla Thacker with 2:22 remaining in the first quarter. Butler didn’t score from the field until there was only 57 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Bullitt East managed to push the lead out to 19-11 when Troutman connected on a three-pointer midway through the second quarter, but then the offense stopped working again. Butler answered with the last nine points of the first half and they went ahead 20-19 when Megan Cureton hit a three-pointer just before the buzzer for halftime.
In the third quarter, the Lady Chargers pushed the margin out to 29-25 thanks to a three-pointer by Troutman, but some free throw misses allowed Butler to pull within 29-28 heading into the final frame.
It was the defense that let Bullitt East get out of Louisville with the win. That and the fact the Lady Chargers had 18 offensive rebounds.
“On transition defense we wanted t get back and limit what they got in transition,” Stallings explained. “We did those things. Those were two big positives for us.”
Obviously, Butler played good defense also, the main reason Bullitt East’s shooting numbers were so poor.
“They play good defense,” Stallings noted. “We have to get better running our sets. We have to get back in the gym and work on that. Butler plays good defense and that caused a lot of misses. It was two good teams out there.”
The Bullitt East defense held Butler’s All-State candidate, senior Whitney Reed, to just four points. In fact, no Butler player scored more than the eight points turned in by both Cureton and Heather Wheat.
Bullitt East got 12 points from Thacker and 10 by Troutman as well as seven points inside from Young. Eight of the 11 Bullitt East players that got into the game scored at least one point.
The final numbers showed Bullitt East making just 15 of 55 shots from the field. They did convert on four of 13 from beyond the arc with three of those coming from Troutman.
After playing Southern last Friday in a 24th District contest, the Lady Chargers will be off early this week. They will return action on Saturday when they head to Lexington to take part in the state’s most prestigious girls’ holiday tournament, the 5th Third Bank Classic at Lexington Catholic High School. That will be a 32-team event with many of the top teams in the state taking part.
BULLITT EAST 42 (10-9-10-13) Jessica Philpott 1, Shelby Romine 4, Jade Troutman 10, Kayla Thacker 12, Samantha Johnson 4, Lindey Young 7, Meredith Polson 2, Nikole Isabel 2.
BUTLER 35 (7-13-8-7) Wheat 8, Cureton 8, Reed 4, Corey 5, Smith 4, Schweitzer 2, Martinez 1, Ruffin 1.