MOUNT WASHINGTON – The Bullitt East Chargers raced out to a 16-2 lead and never looked back on Monday as they opened the 2013-2014 season with a 66-53 victory over visiting North Oldham.
It was just the start that former head coach/new head coach Bob Blackburn was looking for as he takes over a team that returned no starters from a year ago. The starting line-up for the Chargers included one senior, one junior and three sophomores as the team looks to build a rotation and a chemistry for what is most certainly a new era in Bullitt East basketball.
“I’ve said all along that we have a long road ahead of us and we do,” Blackburn said as he sat in his office after the game. “Still, this is a good start, but there is so much more we have to do. I can live with it.”
Blackburn, who was given the Bullitt East job just six weeks ago following a 12-year absence from being the head coach, had fans waving signs proclaiming his return and toward the end of the game the student section serenaded him with ‘Blackburn’s back’ chants.
“It was fun,” the coach said with a big smile. “The kids had fun. They did what we asked of them.”
As with most first games in a season, the Chargers did a lot of good things, but also found some things that will need to be improved upon as the season progresses.
The one aspect of the game that Blackburn would like to see continue was the way the team started the game. Less than a minute into the contest and sophomore guard Tyler Sharpe had connected on a three-pointer and senior Rhett Troutman converted a three-point play for a quick lead.
North Oldham (18-11 last season) finally broke into the scoring column, but then Bullitt East got a pair of baskets from sophomore Brandon Klefot sandwiched around a basket by junior Tyler Bacon, forcing the Mustangs to call a time-out with 3:55 remaining in the opening quarter. After the break, Troutman got a lay-up and Sharpe had two free throws to push the margin to 16-2.
The visitors did not get another point until Trevor Burton hit two free throws with 39 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Against a quality opponent, nobody expected the quick start to continue and North Oldham did finally find some offensive weapons in the second quarter. The Mustangs had an eight-point surge midway through the frame to pull within 28-20, but that would be the only time that the lead would dip to single-digits the rest of the way.
Following that North Oldham run, Bullitt East got a basket from Rehtt Troutman and then back-to-back three-pointers from Bailey Rakes and Klefot as they moved back ahead 37-23 at halftime.
In the second half, Bullitt East again started fast. An 11-5 run started the third quarter and when North Oldham head coach Chris Stobough picked up a technical foul at the 4:19 mark, Sharpe’s free throw pushed the lead to 49-28, the largest it would be the rest of the way.
North Oldham could get no closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
Rhett Troutman ran the show for the Chargers during much of the game at point guard. That is a position he has not played at the varsity level very much in his career. Still, he set the pace for the game and got the ball where it needed to be as well as scoring 15 points.
“He plays all aspects of the game for all of us,” Blackburn said. “That’s big and that’s a key for us.”
Bullitt East also got 18 points from Sharpe as he sank eight of 11 free throw opportunities while also converting a pair of three-pointers. The Chargers also got 12 points from the 6-9 Bacon along with nine points from Klefot who was seeing his very first varsity action ever.
On the boards, Bullitt East got nine rebounds from Farris along with seven by Rhett Troutman and six by Bacon.
Despite a big size advantage inside, Bullitt East only had a 33-28 rebounding edge, but they didn’t take many shots in the fourth quarter as North Oldham opted to foul. The Chargers had only one basket from the field over the final eight minutes but did connect on ten free throws.
“They had decent size,” Blackburn said. “They were bigger than us at guard but we had the edge inside. We didn’t rebound as well as I had hoped. We’ll get better at that.”
Bullitt East also struggled at the foul line, making only 18 of 29 chances.
In the pre-season, Blackburn had talked about substituting freely, but for the most part in the opener he used just eight players.
“Two of the kids played in the JV game and they played briefly (in the varsity game),” Blackburn explained. “That JV game went overtime and they played just about every minute. I didn’t want to use them (after that).”
Bullitt East will be back in action on Thursday of this week when they travel into Jefferson County to take on Moore. That is a boys’ JV-varsity match with the varsity set to take the court around 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, Bullitt East will travel to Thomas Nelson High School for a varsity game set to start at around 7 p.m.
That will be the final tune-up for the Chargers before they play host to North Bullitt on Monday before taking on Sixth Region rival Butler in a key early season game on Tuesday on Dixie Highway.
At Bullitt East
NORTH OLDHAM 53 (4-19-13-17) Chris Burton 4, Henry 16, Trevor Burton 10, Adam Klingeman 20, Cundiff 3.
BULLITT EAST 66 (16-21-17-12) Blake Allen 2, Rhett Troutman 15, Tyler Bacon 12, Jared Farris 2, Brandon Klefot 9, Bailey Rakes 8, Tyler Sharpe 18.