Cold shooting haunts Cougars again

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Boys' Basketball

By Mike Farner

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Coming off a holiday tournament during which the team connected on 27 three-pointers in three games, Bullitt Central head coach Joe Pat Lee felt his was in a position to challenge Fairdale on Tuesday in a key 24th District contest.

It didn’t happen. This time Bullitt Central connected on just five three-pointers and with the team shooting only 31 percent from the field, while also missing eight free throws, they could not stay with the Bulldogs who escaped with a 71-53 victory.

Bullitt Central has not beaten Fairdale in the six seasons in which the two teams have been together in the 24th District.

With a win already under their belts in the district (a road win over Southern) and with both Fairdale and Bullitt East playing the games used in the district seeding in Shepherdsville, the Cougars had high hopes for doing well when they host the district tournament in late February. Now the Cougars are 1-1 in the district with a key district game on Friday at North Bullitt - a game it appears that both squads will need to win to avoid that dreaded opening night game in the district tournament.

Bullitt Central had an 18-17 lead midway through the second quarter, but then were outscored 9-1 by the Bulldogs. When Fairdale stand-out Josh Stroud connected on a three-pointer just before the buzzer, the visitors went to the locker room up 31-24.

Still, the Cougars were in striking distance. That point didn’t last long when the Cougars went over four-and-a-half-minutes to open the second half without scoring. Fairdale scored 14 straight points during that power outage to put the outcome out of doubt.

Stroud had seven of his game-high 24 points during that run while the Bulldogs also got a pair of three-pointers from Boo Crabtree.

“The end of the first half was all about defense,” Lee said after meeting with his team. “When we did play defense, we did well. Then at the end we gave up some open shots where we didn’t listen. We didn’t shoot the ball well enough to overcome the mistakes.”

The opening salvos of the second half showed the worst parts of Bullitt Central’s game this season - poor defense and inconsistent shooting.

“Come out of halftime we had some guys lose focus and we turned the ball over and it got worse from there,” Lee recalled. “We’ve nine straight games were we did not take a single charge. That’s guys not taking pride in defense.”

Bullitt Central made just 18 of 57 shots for 31 percent shooting. The mark was five of 22 from behind the arc.

“When we shoot like that and turn it over 17 times, we can’t beat anyone,” Lee pointed out. “We also gave up 15 offensive rebounds.

“We’ve played 13 games and we have shot it well in four games,” the coach added. “Were around 35 to 40 percent. That’s what we battle through.”

Fairdale took Bullitt Central’s two leading scorers out of the game. Caleb Craddock finished with 10 points while fellow junior Ryan Schnellenberger finished with just five points. Schnellenberger spent much of the final three quarters on the bench with foul trouble.

“They did a good job pressuring Caleb,” Lee said. “We didn’t execute and the pressure bothered us.”

Bullitt Central did get 13 points from junior John Sullivan off the bench. He connected on three of the five three-pointers the Cougars did convert.

Fairdale got all but four points from its five starters. Stroud had the 24 points while Richard Delaney scored 16 points and Crabtree had 11.

The Bulldogs connected on six three-pointers, but did miss ten free throws.

After playing Atherton on Friday, Bullitt Central will be on the road this week. The Cougars will play at Oldham County on Tuesday before the trip to North Bullitt on Friday.


At Bullitt Central

FAIRDALE 71 (10-21-18-22) Crabtree 11, Stroud 24, Delaney 16, Payne 8, Rudolph 7, Small 2, Gonzalez 2.

BULLITT CENTRAL 53 (12-12-14-15) Miciah Ocasio 9, Caleb Craddock 10, Damon Shepherd 7, Ryan Schnellenberger 5, Luke Whitmore 3, Corey Smith 4, John Sullivan 13, Aaron Duckett 2.