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Chargers rally to finish fifth in a tough Texas field

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By Mike Farner

      MOUNT WASHINGTON - If it was possible, the Bullitt East Chargers took another step up the competition ladder right after Christmas when the red and gold traveled to Fort Worth, Texas for the 55th annual Whataburger Tournament.

     After a difficult trip to Texas (the team got detoured from Memphis on Wednesday after Christmas and spent a night in Atlanta before finally arriving in Fort Worth a few hours before the first game), the Chargers came away with a 3-1 record and a fifth-place finish in a highly competitive tournament.

     "It's a different world down there," Barr said after the team's return. "Each of those teams had at least two Division I prospects.

     "You can look at the King of the Bluegrass and that is a top tournament and this might have been a step up from that event," the coach added. "There were just so many talented and well coached teams down there."

     Bullitt East did overcome the jet lag in the first game and beat Coppell, Texas 67-47. Derek Willis collected 19 points in the win while Rusty Troutman tossed in 17 points.

     It was the second day when Barr felt that his team was affected by the travel delays. The Chargers were leading Arlington Martin, another team from Texas heading into the fourth quarter, but then were outscored 22-8 as they fell 46-42.

     "In the first game we really hunkered down and played well," Barr said. "It was the second game that really go us. Our legs weren't there. In the fourth quarter we had a lead and fell apart."

     Willis suffered a sprained ankle in the second half of that game and was on the bench for about four minutes but did return to lead the Chargers with 15 points.

     The Chargers bounced back with a strong game as they beat Spring Westfield, a team from Texas by a 55-46 score. That team was ranked 31st in the country.

     "They were extremely talented," Barr recalled. The guys played well and we shut down their better players. Then we hit our free throws and won the game."

     Willis was held to eight points, but Rusty Troutman tossed in a game high 17 points while Elliot Young added 11 points.

     In the final game of the tournament, Bullitt East was playing for fifth-place against North Crowley, another Texas squad. This time Willis showed an ill affects from the sprained ankle as he scored 30 points including a three-pointer at :08 that accounted for the final score.

     "They focused on shutting down Rusty," Barr pointed out "He (Willis) had just enough to pull it out for us that night."

     After a busy eight games in nine days around Christmas, Bullitt East returned home without a problem and Barr gave the team three days off from practice.

     Bullitt East played at Lexington Catholic on Saturday and then travels to Bullitt Central on Monday before getting another week off before playing at South Oldham on Jan. 14.

     "This is a critical time for us," Barr said of getting some extended practice time. "There are things we have to get better at. We see things on film we can tighten down. It's like a mini-camp to tighten things up."

Whataburger Tournament Fort Worth, Texas

First Round

     BULLITT EAST 67 (18-11-18-20) Trey Rakes 2, Rusty Troutman 17, Rhett Troutman 4, Hunter Noffsinger 9, Elliot Young 2, Blake Allen 2, Derek Willis 19, Ezra Troutman 11, Tyler Bacon 1.

     COPPELL, TEXAS 47 (5-13-17-12) Goesling 11, Kemp 6, Carver 9, Feltt 5, Sacks 11, Barden 2, Watson 3.

Second Round

     BULLITT EAST 42 (13-9-12-8) Trey Rakes 7, Rusty Troutman 7, Rhett Troutman 2, Derek Jones 2, Hunter Noffsinger 2, Elliot Young 5, Derek Willis 15, Ezra Troutman 2.

     ARLINGTON MARTIN, TEXAS 46 (9-8-7-22) Hammer 8, Dotson 2, Swearingen 7, Eilts 7, Babb 11, Garrett 9, Smith 2.

Consolation Bracket

     BULLITT EAST 55 (19-13-8-15) Trey Rakes 8, Rusty Troutman 17, Rhett Troutman 2, Derek Jones 5, Elliot Young 11, Derek Willis 8, Ezra Troutman 4.

     SPRING WESTFIELD, TEXAS 46 (10-16-9-11) Richardson 3, Cauley 9, Harris 3, Sidney 2, Stewart 6, Tanner 4, Iwundu 6, Harrison 12, Cornett 1.

Fifth-Place Game

     BULLITT EAST 55 (11-15-18-11) Trey Rakes 9, Rusty Troutman 8, Hunter Noffsinger 4, Elliot Young 4, Derek Willis 30.

     NORTH CROWLEY, TEXAS 53 (13-12-13-15) McCloud 9, Simmons 4, Bone 16, Neal 7, Bank 6, Young 2, Webb 3, Davase 6.