SHEPHERDSVILLE - Bullitt Central head coach Joe Pat Lee has loaded up on tough teams for his senior-dominated squad to battle this winter in hopes of preparing them for a big finish to their careers.
The Cougars jumped right into the tough stuff in the season-opener on Tuesday when they played host to North Oldham, the second-ranked team in the Eighth Region. The Cougars led 30-29 entering the fourth quarter but with Mustangs connecting on 11 of 12 free throws over the final eight minutes, North Oldham pulled out a 43-37 victory.
For the game, the Mustangs only missed two of 15 free throw chances.
"That was supposed to be one of the top teams in their region," Lee said after meeting with his players after the game. "The kids played awesome. I'm proud of them.
"We didn't come up with a few loose balls and then we had one bad stretch in the second quarter where we didn't cover a player that we knew could hit the threes."
That player was North Oldham David Levitch who ended up leading all scorers in the game with 20 points. Levitch scored 12 points in the second quarter as he converted four of the five three-pointers he made in the contest.
Bullitt Central did a better job on North Oldham senior center Devon Rowan, the pre-season number one player in the Eighth Region. Rowan finished with just six points.
"We knew they had two good players," Lee said of Levitch and Rowan. "We wanted to make Number five (Levitch) put it on the floor, but we didn't close out on him."
Leading by a point heading into the fourth quarter, Bullitt Central was outscored 8-2 over the first five minutes of the final frame. After single free throws from Ryan Schnellenberger and Corey Smith, North Oldham's lead was down to 37-34 with two minutes to play.
Bullitt Central then made a steal, but had trouble running its offense, finally turning the ball over on a three-second call. The Cougars then mistakenly fouled Levitch who stepped to the line and converted both ends of the bonus with 43 seconds remaining.
The final points for the Cougars then came when senior Caleb Craddock drove down the lane and scored as he was fouled. The free throw pulled the Cougars within 39-37 but they could get no closer. North Oldham scored on four free throws in the final 25 seconds to secure the win.
"The effort was there. The kids played great," Lee said. "We did a lot of good stuff out there.
"We had some chances down the stretch, but we didn't execute," the coach added. "There are a lot of good teams on our schedule. We just have to go back to work tomorrow."
Craddock led Bullitt Central with 13 points while fellow senior Schnellenberger finished with 12 points. All of Bullitt Central's points came from the five senior starters.
After playing twice over the weekend, Bullitt Central will be back at home on Tuesday to take on Holy Cross in a girl/boy doubleheader. The girls' contest will start at 6 p.m.
At Bullitt Central
NORTH OLDHAM 43 (4-16-9-14) Clark 6, Levitch 20, Shams 5, Kozak 6, Rowan 6.
BULLITT CENTRAL 37 (9-10-11-7) Caleb Craddock 13, Ryan Schnellenberger 12, Corey Smith 3, Damon Shepherd 5, Luke Whitmore 4.