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SHIVLEY – The Bullitt East Chargers had opened the season with three consecutive wins, but the questions persisted about the level of competition
That all changed on Wednesday, as the red and gold traveled to Dixie Highway for a showdown with Sixth Region rival Butler. Questions answered. Bullitt East put together another strong performance, pulling away late to beat the Bears 66-54.
Bullitt East came into the game, which had been moved back a day to Wednesday because of inclement weather, with a definite height advantage while Butler is as quick as any team in Jefferson County. In the end, the Chargers won with a 30-22 rebounding advantage and a better shooting percentage.
“This was a big test,” Bullitt East head coach Bob Blackburn said after the game. “The kids handled it well, but I’m still a little rusty. I put them in some bad spots.”
After dozen years away from coaching the Chargers, this was only Blackburn’s fourth game back on the bench.
“I felt like the three teams we had played were pretty good too,” Blackburn pointed out. “Every game at this point is going to be a benefit to us because we have a young group and little experience. We learned tonight because they were so athletic. I’m real proud of the players.”
Bullitt East jumped out to a 13-2 lead in the first three minutes of the game, but no one thought that would continue. Butler settled down and got within 18-12 at the first quarter break and made it 20-19 early in the second quarter before the half ended with a 10-4 run by the Chargers that put them ahead 32-25.
The Chargers expanded on that advantage in the third quarter and they led 48-38 heading into the final frame. The lead then grew to 54-43 at the 5:23 mark when Butler made a late charge.
The Bears scored the next eight points in just over 90 seconds to get within 54-51. The home team sped up the game, forcing Bullitt East into several turnovers. That forced Blackburn to call a time-out with 3:44 remaining in the game.
Bullitt East responded with a free throw from sophomore Tyler Sharpe before senior Rhett Troutman sliced through the lane and put up a shot that found the bottom of the net. Troutman then connected on six straight free throws to put the game out of reach.
What did the coach say during the time-out?
“I said, OK guys, it’s on me,” Blackburn said. “Let’s take it now and go. We wanted to get it in scoring position and Rhett made a tough shot. Players make plays and Rhett did that.”
Bullitt East finished the game on a 12-3 run.
“I’m very pleased,” Blackburn said of the way his team handled Butler’s late push. “There were points in this game where we could have handled things better. Part of that is me. I like the way the kids responded.”
Bullitt East got 17 points from Rhett Troutman as well as 16 points from 6-9 junior Tyler Bacon who also had 10 rebounds. Sharpe finished with 12 points while senior Ezra Troutman had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Two nights earlier, in a win over North Bullitt, the Chargers had missed only three of 27 free throw chances. In this game they were only 17 of 30, but that was still eight more points at the free throw line than Butler.
The Bears did have seven three-pointers, four more than Bullitt East, but it took 23 attempts to made the seven three-pointers.
The only double-digit scorer for Butler was guard Will Johnson who had five three-pointers en route to a game-high 21 points.
Bullitt East will be off during the first part of this week. The Chargers will not play again until Friday when they open play in the 16-team Mercer County Invitational. The Chargers will take on Owensboro Apollo at 6:30 p.m.
BULLITT EAST 66 (18-14-16-18) Rhett Troutman 17, Ezra Troutman 10, Tyler Bacon 16, Brandon Klefot 2, Bailey Rakes 9, Tyler Sharpe 12.
BUTLER 54 (12-13-13-16) Bell 9, Murphy 6, Williams 5, Whetstone 1, Johnson 21, Bradley 5, Malone 5, Boyd 2.
A night after beating Butler, Bullitt East was back on the road, traveling to Taylorsville for a meeting with former district rival Spencer County.
There was no hangover from the night before as the Chargers bolted to an early 16-7 lead and then never looked back as they beat another group of Bears, this time by a 79-59 score.
On this night, the Chargers were perfect at the free throw line, converting all 22 of their chances. Bullitt East also pulled down a dozen more rebounds.
Bullitt East had 11 different players score in this game. Bacon led the way with 16 points while Ezra Troutman had another double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Sharpe added 11 points while Rhett Troutman finished with 10 points.
At Spencer County
BULLITT EAST 79 (16-18-24-21) Blake Allen 2, Rhett Troutman 10, Ezra Troutman 12, Tyler Bacon 16, Austin Wheeler 2, Garrett Ezell, Brandon Klefot 8, Kyle McKinley 4, Bailey Rakes 10, Garrett Wilson 2, Tyler Sharpe 11.
SPENCER COUNTY 59 (7-13-17-22) Fitz 8, Landon 4, Cordoba 11, Mouser 11, Downs 8, Smith 7, Newman 9, Mitchell 1.