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MOUNT WASHINGTON – It was a spectacular ride that the Bullitt East Chargers gave to their community, but the end just came too soon.
Over the past four years, no program in the state has won more than the 108 games that the Chargers posted. There were two trips to the Kentucky State Tournament including a semi-final loss in 2011. Two other times the red and gold lost close games in the Sixth Region semi-finals.
It was the second of those two semi-final losses that will haunt players, coaches and fans for life. The worst performance of the season, a night where the team shot just 25 percent from the field, ended the Golden Era of Charger basketball with a devastating 40-33 loss to Pleasure Ridge Park, a game the Chargers had led with 2:30 remaining.
Just a few days earlier, Bullitt East had moved to the top spot in the Associated Press boys’ high school basketball poll.
In the end, Bullitt East posted a 29-5 record. By the end of the season, the Chargers were starting five seniors.
Before the season began, head coach Troy Barr had talked about being disappointed if the team didn’t win the final game. That didn’t happen and despite the glowing numbers, there was disappointment.
“We are disappointed not winning the last game,” the veteran coach said last week of not bringing home a state championship. “No doubt our number one goal was to win the last game and we didn’t get it done.”
In any one-and-done event, lots of teams believe they could have done better and Bullitt East is certainly no exception.
“We still have to look back at the last four seasons and the whole body of work,” Barr pointed out. “That body of work says a lot about this team and the type kids we had.”
Adding to the frustration is the fact that in each of the past three seasons, Bullitt East defeated the eventual state champion during the season (the win over Trinity last year did come in an early season scrimmage), although, they also lost to two of those teams in the same span.
“The kids know that,” Barr said. “Over the last four years we won more games than any team in the state. We just didn’t win the one we wanted to win.”
Bullitt East ended the season with six seniors. As is well documented, Derek Willis has already signed with the University of Kentucky and guard Rusty Troutman will be playing at Bellarmine next season. In addition, senior Elliott Young will sign later this week with Campbellsville while point guard Trey Rakes will choose between Pikeville and Georgetown in the coming weeks.
The other two seniors were Chris Embry and Derek Jones who each played four seasons for the red and gold.
Obviously, the Chargers will be a different team in the future. The good news is that while the program will be younger and less experienced…as well as smaller…there is talent in the pipeline. The Bullitt East junior-varsity squad posted a 12-0 record over the winter while the freshman team went 23-1.
This Bullitt East freshman team is often compared to the one four years ago that went undefeated with Rusty Troutman and Rakes and Young as well as some others. Already, freshman shooting standout Tyler Sharpe has seen varsity action.
The only loss for that team was a setback to Manual. That loss came without guard Bailey Rakes, Trey’s younger brother, who suffered a seriously broken leg just before Christmas. The youngest of the three Rakes’ brothers was recently cleared to play basketball again and he and Sharpe are playing on the same AAU team this spring.
Bullitt East will also return cousins Ezra and Rhett Troutman who have gotten varsity experience each of the past two seasons and will be seniors next season. In addition, 6-7 sophomore Tyler Bacon has some varsity experience.
“Our future will revolve around that freshmen class,” Barr said. “They are very talented. There are six freshmen who could see quite a bit of varsity playing time (next season).”
Obviously, the schedule will not be quite as challenging next season and there are no plans for a trip out of Kentucky. At this point Barr is looking at holiday tournaments at Mercer County and at Lloyd Memorial, although, the King of the Bluegrass is still an option. Bullitt East will also leave a week open to play in the Louisville Invitational Tournament.
The Chargers will once again play Bullitt Central twice and North Bullitt only once. Barr has added games against North Oldham, Shelby County, Thomas Nelson, Moore, Whitefield Academy, Manual, Nelson County, Christian Academy and Woodford County. The only boy/girl doubleheaders next season will be against the inter-county rivals and district foes Fern Creek and Jeffersontown.