SHEPHERDSVILLE - Tonight, Kentucky's top-ranked boys' basketball team, Bullitt East, will invade Bullitt Central to take on the Cougars' in the Big House.
Sure, it's Bullitt East. The Chargers make the trip down Highway 44 every winter. Still, you can't type that as 'it's just Bullitt East.' Never before have the Chargers made the short trip to Shepherdsville with such lofty credentials.
I really can't point to a 'major' poll right now that has the Chargers ranked number one in Kentucky. The red and gold were ranked second in the pre-season and, as of late last week, no new polls have been released. However, if the Chargers had opted to play in the Louisville Invitational Tournament, they would have been the number one seed, ahead of Ballard and Trinity. Hence, we can call them the number one team in Kentucky at this point, until the Litkenhous and Associated Press polls appear soon.
This is the 43rd year that basketball has been played in the Big House and this game begs the question - is this Bullitt East squad the best high school team to ever play in Shepherdsville? (Please note I said 'high school'. We're not considering those Louisville and Kentucky intra-squad scrimmages back in the '80s that involved future Final Four squads.)
It is really a fun debate that doesn't have a right or wrong answer. Just an interesting discussion.
In every instance that will come for the rest of this column, Bullitt Central and Bullitt County basketball fans have come out in droves to watch the games. I expect much the same tonight. Every effort has been made to make this game accessible to everyone, including Bullitt East fans who only have seven chances to see the team play in Mount Washington this winter, including the rematch against Bullitt Central on Feb. 12.
There are a number of teams/games that could be debated. Unfortunately, in all the other cases, Bullitt Central had a little more muscle to fight the battles than this season's young and very inexperienced squad. It was just two years ago that a Bullitt East squad that would reach the semi-finals of the state tournament played in Shepherdsville and only won by a point in a classic contest.
In the mid-70's, Shelby County and future University of Kentucky standout Charles Hurt played at Bullitt Central. As a student at the time, I remember Hurt throwing down the first dunk I ever saw in person. One of those Rocket teams did win a Kentucky state title.
Still, the two teams that head up this debate came to Shepherdsville with great fanfare - the 1976 Male Bulldogs and the 1992 Oak Hill Academy team. Both were ranked right there as one of, if not the, best teams in the country.
The buzz was incredible in 1976 when Male came to town with that Darrell Griffith/Bobby Turner team that would win the state title two months later. The two went on of course to lead the University of Louisville to the 1980 national championship.
In 1992, Bullitt Central head coach Bill Schott worked out a special deal to get Oak Hill Academy to Shepherdsville to take on the last great team he coached that had Jerome Hoosier, Clifton Whitmer and John Holt. That Oak Hill team would play at Mason County the next night and ended up winning both games handily. That team started five players who signed with Division I schools.
(An interesting side note here - Holt was 6-8 and had been playing at Male, but transferred to Bullitt Central for his senior season as his father was a counselor at the school at the time. Bullitt East's Derek Willis, who is 6-9, played for a season at Male before transferring to Bullitt East. So, the two tallest varsity players in Bullitt County history actually both started playing at Male.)
Any other memories of great teams playing at Bullitt Central? Feel free to email me at www.pioneernews.net.