SHEPHERDSVILLE - A large homecoming crowd on Friday at Bullitt Central got a mixed bag of results as the Cougar basketball teams split a pair of games with former district rival Spencer County.
In the first game, it was all Bullitt Central as the Lady Cougars jumped on top 30-13 in the first half and then rolled to a 95-45 victory. That was the highest point total of the season for the maroon and gray and it could have been higher except that the Lady Bears opted to hold the ball for the last 90 seconds to keep the Lady Cougars from reaching the century mark.
The second game had the fans on the edge of the bleachers for most of the fourth quarter as the Cougars and Bears went back and forth. Bullitt Central had the lead midway through the fourth quarter, but Spencer County rallied for a 58-54 victory.
The two Bullitt Central teams played different opponents early this week as the final preparation for Friday’s rivalry showdown with Bullitt East. The winner of the girls’ game in Shepherdsville on Friday will have the number one seed for the 24th District Tournament which will be the last week in February at Bullitt Central.
Lady Cougars Roll
After not playing for ten days because of bad weather, the Bullitt Central Lady Cougars had a lot of pent-up energy to use against Spencer County. That explosion came early as the maroon and gray connected on 21 of 36 shots in the first half as they darted out to a 57-21 lead by halftime.
The Lady Cougars were stroking it from beyond the arc as they hit nine of the long shots before halftime. Bullitt Central was nine of 17 on three-pointers in the first half. They made just one in the second half.
“I was worried about being flat since we hadn’t played in the last week,” Bullitt Central head coach Bryan Bates said after the game. “it took a little time, but when you shoot it like that it makes everything look better. It made our defense and rebounding look better.”
Sophomore Kristen Collins came off the bench and connected on five straight bombs to lead the first half blow-out.
“Kristen was on fire,” Bates said. “There is no other way to describe it. Her last three was from at least 24 feet out.”
Bullitt Central is ranked by the computer as the number three team in the Sixth Region behind Butler and Bullitt East. If the team can shoot 50 percent from the field as they did in this game (38 of 78 from the field) then they can make some noise in the post-season.
“If we shoot it well we can play with anybody,” Bates said. “But we won’t shoot it like this every night. We have to rebound and play defense all the time. But yes, we have good shooters.”
Bullitt Central (10-8) pushed the advantage to 78-40 heading into the last quarter and then held the Lady Bears to just five free throws over the final eight minutes.
Bates used nine players extensively in this game and they all scored. Collins led the way with 19 points while senior Keoka Hilliard finished with 17 oints and ten assists. The offense also got 16 points from Seaera Minyard as well as 14 points and ten rebounds from Valerie Terry. Kaitlyn McKnight added 11 points.
Spencer County (3-15) got 11 points from MacKenzie Myers before she fouled out.
Bates did say after the game that he has rescheduled a game against Seneca for Feb. 17 at home. The game was snowed out in January. The coach did not think that a game that was snowed out on Wednesday against Oldham County could be rescheduled this late in the season.
At Bullitt Central
SPENCER COUNTY 45 (13-8-19-5) Barmore 3, Spencer 8, Smith 3, Pfeiffer 6, Keown 6, Barlow 8, Myers 11.
BULLITT CENTRAL 95 (30-27-21-17) Keoka Hilliard 17, Ashleigh Pollard 3, Valerie Terry 14, Seaera Minyard 16, Kaitlyn McKnight 11, Tori Boston 3, Kristen Collins 19, Kayla Riggs 9, Selena Yunt 3.
Tough Loss for BC
In the second game on Friday, the Bullitt Central Cougars went toe-to-toe with Spencer County, but then faltered down the stretch.
Bullitt Central trailed 31-20 late in the first half but then pulled within seven points at halftime. Spencer County then went on an 8-3 surge to open the second half before the Cougars scored seven straight points to claw back within 39-34.
The Cougars’ surge continued early in the fourth quarter. Bullitt Central pulled within 43-42 when Ryan Schnellenberger nailed a three-pointer and the Cougars grabbed the lead for the first time in the second half when Damon Shepherd hit a three-pointer that made it 45-43 with 5:43 remaining.
Over the next four minutes, the lead went back-and-forth. With a minute to play, Bullitt Central’s Caleb Craddock grabbed a rebound and hit a short jumper in the lane to tie the score at 52-52. Spencer County answered with a basket by Chris Dunbar and then the Bears hit four of six free throws in the final 30 seconds to secure the win.
It was another poor shooting night for the Cougars, but they did some other things well to stay in the game.
“Despite all that went on, we had some chances to knock down some shots,” Bullitt Central head coach Joe Pat Lee said after the game. “We just didn’t do it.”
Bullitt Central had some bad stretches in the first half.
“What hurt was that we were flat for the first two quarters,” Lee pointed out. “We didn’t do a good job defensively and we didn’t shoot it very well. Still, the kids battled back.”
The loss was the second in three games during a five-day stretch.
“The two losses came in close games,” Lee said of a loss to Oldham County earlier in the week. “This was a district tournament atmosphere tonight. I’m proud of the way they battled.”
Bullitt Central had six three-pointers against the Bears, but their best games this season come when the totals are closer to ten bombs than to five of the three-pointers.
“We had six against Oldham County and it wasn’t enough,” the coach said of hitting at least ten bombs. “Unfortunately we don’t get that (total) very often.
“We had chances to win,” Lee said. “We just didn’t make shots.”
Five of the six three-pointers the Cougars did make came from Damon Shepherd who was the leading scorer for Bullitt Central with 19 points. The team also got 17 points from Schnellenberger as well as 14 points from Craddock.
Spencer County countered with 19 points each from Chris Dunbar and Logan Dunbar.
The Bears also converted 16 of 24 free throws while Bullitt Central was only six of ten at the charity stripe.
At Bullitt Central
SPENCER COUNTY 58 (14-17-8-19) L. Dunbar 19, Wyatt 12, Miller 3, C. Dunbar 19, Mills 5.
BULLITT CENTRAL 54 (10-14-10-20) Miciah Ocasio 2, Caleb Craddock 14, Damon Shepherd 19, Ryan Schnellenberger 17, Luke Whitmore 2.