SHEPHERDSVILLE - The shooting wasn’t what Bullitt Central head coach Joe Pat Lee expects from his team this season, but the overall effort was good enough on Tuesday to beat Evangel 77-61.
The contest was the first of the season for both teams.
Overall, the Cougars shot just 38 percent. The numbers inside the arc were not that disturbing as the maroon and gray hit 23 of 52 attempts for 44 percent. The trouble was from outside the arc as the team made just five of 21 tries or 23 percent.
“The main thing is we came out with a win,” Lee said after meeting with his team. “We can play with anybody this season and we can lose to anybody this season. We just let them stay in the game too long.”
Bullitt Central defeated Evangel to open last season and the Cougars went on to post an 8-19 mark.
The contest was a little different than a normal game. The game was preceded by a girls’ game between Bullitt Central and Bethlehem before the Cougars took the floor to play Evangel. Bullitt Central was set to take on Bethlehem later in the week.
Bullitt Central may have only made five three-pointers in the game, but two of those came early as the maroon and gray grabbed an early lead and never gave it up. Evangel scored first, but then two free throws by Ryan Schnellenberger and a three-pointer by Caleb Craddock put Bullitt Central on top for good. Following a free throw by the visitors, Craddock sank another three-pointer to push the lead to 8-3.
Evangel did get the score back to 10-9, but a 10-2 surge by the Cougars to end the quarter set the tone for the rest of the game. Corey Smith came off the bench to score a basket for the Cougars before the final two minutes of the frame included two baskets from Damon Shepherd and single hoops from Craddock and Ryan to put the Bullitt Central advantage to 20-11.
Between the two quarters, Lee was assessed a technical foul and spent the rest of the game seated on the bench.
Evangel did make a run in the second quarter when they connected on a trio of three-pointers. The visitors pulled within 33-31 before the half ended with three Bullitt Central points to make it 36-31.
The visitors did get the first basket of the second half, but they would get no closer. It was a 44-39 Bullitt Central lead three minutes into the half and the Eagles made a short run to get within 50-46. The Cougars answered with two baskets from Smith and one from Craddock over the final 90 seconds of the third quarter to make the difference 56-46.
Evangel got no closer than eight points in the final frame as a pair of three-pointers from Schnellenberger kept the Cougars with a safe lead. Bullitt Central scored the last six points of the game at the foul line to push the final margin to 77-61.
“I thought the officiating was gawd awful,” Lee said of comments that could have been echoed by either coach. “The kids kept their composure and closed out the game. That’s what they have to do.”
Lee started five juniors in the contest, but all of them had started games in the past.
Bullitt Central got 28 points from Schnellenberger and 22 from Craddock. Schnellenberger scored 19 of his points in the second half and the junior also had 11 rebounds. Craddock had six assists to just one turnover.
The Cougars also got 15 points from Shepherd.
Bullitt Central converted 16 of 23 free throws in the win.
While the overall scoring balance was fine, Lee expects much better shooting from the outside.
“We have talked to the guys that we have to have others step up,” the coach said. “We didn’t have others step up tonight. There are guys on this team who are all capable of scoring, but they don’t have confidence. That is all they need.
“I was disappointed in the defense,” the coach added. “We didn’t stay together with our defense. We have to play better defense. We scored 77 points, but the defense was just awful. We have to work on that.”
The Cougars are still young, but their experience showed in this game.
“Every time they made a run, we handled it,” Lee pointed out. “Then, down the stretch, we did some good things and got some calls.”
Cesar Cano paced Evangel with 22 points while Timmy Janes finished with 19. The Eagles had only five players score and two of those accounted for only nine points.
After taking on Bullitt East last Friday, Bullitt Central will be on the road again early this week when they head to Dixie Highway to take on Holy Cross on Tuesday. That game will be part of a girl/boy doubleheader with the girls’ game starting at 6 p.m.
At Bullitt Central
EVANGEL 61 (11-20-15-15) Cano 22, Brinley 6, Janes 19, Sellinger 12, Miller 3.
BULLITT CENTRAL 77 (20-16-20-21) Miciah Ocasio 4, Caleb Craddock 22, Ryan Schnellenberger 28, Luke Whitmore 2, Damon Shepherd 15, Corey Smith 6.