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SHEPHERDSVILLE - Just before Christmas, the Bullitt Central Cougars took part in the Sarah Major Barger Tournament at North Bullitt, an event that was eventually won by Allen County-Scottsville.
The Cougars finished fifth.
A week later, Bullitt Central traveled south to compete in the South Central Bank-Halton Classic, an event conducted by Allen County-Scottsville. As it turned out, the Cougars were paired up with the host school in the first-round of the eight-team event.
This time, Bullitt Central turned the tables, getting the best of the Patriots by a 53-51 score.
That was the high point for the Cougars as a pair of losses over the next two days left the maroon and gray with a 6-7 mark following the two holiday tournaments.
When school starts back on Monday, the Cougars will return to action, playing host to Bullitt East, the top-ranked team in Kentucky in a boys' only contest that will start an hour earlier than normal with the varsity contest set for around 7:30 p.m.
After beating Allen County-Scottsville, the Cougars lost to Russell County 69-51 before closing the tournament with a 92-67 loss to Houston High School, a team out of Tennessee.
"The two teams we lost to were really good," Bullitt Central head coach Joe Pat Lee said after his squad returned to practice following a New Year's Day break. "Russell County was 9-2 and they went on to win the tournament. Then Houston was really athletic."
Overall, the Cougars were hanging their hats on the victory over Allen County-Scottsville.
"Against Allen County, we played well," the veteran Cougar coach said. "They were 7-3 and had won the North Bullitt tournament. The game didn't start until after 10 p.m. our time and to beat them on their home court was positive. Then to play in the semi-finals was big for this group."
Only Bullitt Central senior Aaron Duckett had really been on the road with the Cougars before and knew how the overnight tournament trips worked.
"It was a tournament of firsts for a lot of our players," Lee pointed out. "We learned how to get ready and to prepare for events like that.
"Allen County was a good win," the coach added. "The other two teams were just better than us. At times we played well."
Against Allen County, Bullitt Central trailed for most of the first half, but managed to stay within striking distance. The Cougars trailed 33-29 at halftime and cut that margin in half entering the fourth quarter. The defense picked it up down the stretch and Bullitt Central held the Patriots to six points over the final eight minutes to get the win.
In the next two games, Bullitt Central struggled with some third quarter woes in both losses. Against Russell County, the Cougars were down seven points at halftime and then scored just four points in the third quarter and were never able to recover.
A night later, Bullitt Central fell behind Houston High School by 17 points in the first half, but then rallied to take a two point lead before finally being behind 43-38 at halftime. That all changed in the third quarter as the Tennessee squad went on a 27-11 run to put the outcome on ice.
Bullitt Central had a week to prepare for the Bullitt East invasion and then a very important 23rd District game on Friday against North Bullitt.
"We're just going to work on improving our ball handling and passing," Lee said. "And we just want to play hard on defense."
South Central Bank Halton Classic At Allen County-Scottsville
BULLITT CENTRAL 53 (15-14-14-10) Jacob Wampler 8, Aaron Duckett 10, Zach Humphrey 13, Jake Gillard 5, Brett Bourland 17.
ALLEN COUNTY-SCOTTSVILLE 51 (20-13-12-6) Walden 11, York 9, Napier 4, Halder 3, Harper 14, Ross 4, Johnston 2, Sikes 5.
BULLITT CENTRAL 51 (14-12-4-21) Jacob Wampler 2, Aaron Duckett 18, Zach Humphrey 9, Jake Gillard 5, Brett Bourland 7, Ken Dockery 2, Kevin Ford 5, Roy Crable 2, Javi Ferrell 1.
RUSSELL COUNTY 69 (17-16-17-19) Turner 3, Robertson 16, Ellis 12, Mann 7, Coffey 20, Bertram 2, Britt 5, Best 4.
BULLITT CENTRAL 67 (13-25-11-18) Jacob Wampler 13, Aaron Duckett 16, Zach Humphrey 12, Jake Gillard 3, Brett Bourland 11, Alex Cromer 1, Colin Trent 2, Roy Crable 3, Cameron Dukes 3, Chris Dawson 3.
HOUSTON HS (TN.) 92 (27-16-27-22) J. Johnson 32, Davis 7, Tipsard 1, T. Johnson 5, Nicholson 1, Smith 2, Soboles 18, McCray 6.