MOUNT STERLING – Even the best basketball teams have a bad half every now and then.
Sometimes, they even have horrendous halves.
On Saturday, after traveling to Mount Sterling to play the final game in the Joe B. Hall Classic, the Bullitt East Chargers found themselves trailing 35-24 at halftime. The Chargers had struggled from the field, making just seven of 31 shots for 22.6 percent shooting.
Good teams find a way to win.
The Chargers did just that, rallying from a 55-46 deficit early in the second half to beat top-20 Pulaski County 69-63.
Bullitt East head coach Troy Barr didn’t talk about paint peeling off the locker room wall at halftime, but there was a time that the veteran coach challenged his team’s manhood.
“I don’t think it was anything I said,” Barr said a couple of days later. “It was just pointed out that they were getting outhustled and out played.
“I’ve had some pretty potent halftime talks, but this wasn’t one of those,” the coach admitted. “We have talented players and we just wanted to show the people how talented we are.”
Kentuckyprepsplus.com has Bullitt East as the number one team in the state this week.
Despite still trailing by nine points early in the fourth quarter, Bullitt East put together a 14-2 run that put them ahead for good. The Chargers pulled even at 57-57 when senior point guard Trey Rakes nailed a three-pointer. At the 2:58 mark, Derek Willis’ free throw put the Chargers ahead for good.
Even with that surge, the game was not over. Pulaski County nailed the gap to 63-62 when Kody Johnson hit a three-pointer with 14 seconds remaining. Bullitt East answered by hitting six straight free throws to end the game.
Bullitt East has played a tough schedule this season and faced some of the best teams in the Midwest and Barr was hoping that this wasn’t a case of his squad overlooking a Pulaski County team that came into the game ranked 18th in the state and with 18 wins.
“They were in the top 20 last year,” Barr pointed out. “If we overlooked them then that is not good.
“But, we just got outplayed in the first half,” the coach noted.
Early in the season Barr had talked about the Chargers being the team that would make a team’s season if they could upset the state’s third-ranked squad. That talk had really not been noticeable since the holiday tournament season started, but it was the case on Saturday.
“You could tell they were fired up about playing us,” Barr said of Pulaski County. “They gave a great effort in the paint.”
Bullitt East is the number one free throw shooting team in Kentucky this winter and they needed that to continue in this game to get the win. The Chargers converted 14 of 16 chances in the fourth quarter and were 24 of 29 for the game.
Willis led Bullitt East with 24 points while Rakes scored all 18 of his points after halftime. The red and gold also got 12 points from Elliott Young and ten points from Rusty Troutman.
Johnson paced Pulaski County with 18 points.
Bullitt East (19-4) was scheduled to play the night before against Martha Layne Collins High School, but that game had to be cancelled because of icy conditions early on Friday. That game will not be rescheduled.
Because of the lost game with Collins, Barr added a game last night with Covington Holy Cross at home. That game was not set until late on Sunday.
That Friday game with Collins was also supposed to be homecoming. Bullitt East will now conduct homecoming festivities on Saturday of this week when they play host to Iroquois. The crowning of the Queen and King will take place between the junior-varsity and varsity contests.
At halftime of the varsity contest on Saturday, Bullitt East will induct 14 players (seven males and seven females) into the school’s new Wall of Fame.
Joe B. Hall Classic At Montgomery County
BULLITT EAST 69 (13-11-18-27) Rusty Troutman 10, Derek Willis 24, Trey Rakes 18, Elliott Young 12, Chris Embry 2, Rhett Troutman 2.
PULASKI COUNTY 62 (14-21-16-11) Grover 17, Johnson 18, Goeings 10, Laing 2, Burton 12, Ross 1, Helton 2.