HEBRON ESTATES - Throughout the pre-season, Bullitt Central head coach Joe Pat Lee was telling anyone who would listen, that his Cougars had three players who could ‘go-off’ and score 30 points in a game this season.
On Friday night, Lee’s talk was put to the test against arch-rival North Bullitt. The Eagles came out and worked hard to keep seniors Ryan Schnellenberger and Damon Shepherd from having big games. Bullitt Central answered with senior Caleb Craddock exploding for 35 points as the maroon and gray rolled to a 62-49 victory.
It didn’t appear in the early going that it would be a big night for either Craddock or the Cougars. Craddock picked up his second foul just 76 seconds into the contest and he went to the bench for the next four minutes. During that time, North Bullitt raced out to a 17-6 lead after one quarter.
On the opening trip down the floor in the second quarter, North Bullitt sophomore Jared George nailed a three-pointer that made it a 14-point game. However, George was given a technical foul for yelling at a Bullitt Central player after the bucket.
Shepherd hit one of the two foul shots and Bullitt Central came out of its early doldrums. Craddock scored the next nine points to put Bullitt Central back in the game and when the Cougars scored the last eight points of the half, including a three-pointer by Schnellenberger, Bullitt Central had a 30-29 lead at the break.
Craddock finished with 16 points in the first half despite playing only about 12 minutes.
Certainly the finish was a lot better for Craddock than the beginning.
“It wasn’t good,” the senior said after the game. “We didn’t feel very good at the start. I had the foul trouble. I just got mad.”
The 35 points is a career-high for Craddock who has been playing for the Bullitt Central varsity since he was an eighth-grader.
Lee was not happy with the first quarter, but he never panicked.
“We got on the ropes there early with the horrible start,” the veteran coach said. “We had some touch fouls. I knew we would settle in. Our kids did a good job defensively. We were happy to be up one at halftime.”
North Bullitt came into the game with two losses to open the season and some of the Bullitt Central players had watched them lose to Valley two nights earlier.
“I think we lost some focus,” Lee said of the three days between a win over Holy Cross and the North Bullitt contest. “We were coming off a good performance against a good team where we had led by 30. We just lost a little focus.”
Craddock had the huge game for the Cougars, but Lee said that it could just as easily have been Schnellenberger or Shepherd having the big scoring night.
“It was really about match-ups,” the coach said. “They did a good job taking Ryan and Damon out of it. They put pressure on them when we moved the ball.
“But they didn’t have anyone to take Caleb,” Lee noted. “You keep doing stuff until they stop it and they never stopped it. When we were patient we could get him to the rim.”
Bullitt Central actually never trailed in the second half, but the game was close throughout the third quarter. After the Cougars built a seven point advantage, North Bullitt scored seven straight points and they knotted the score at 38-38 on Brandon Goeing’s three-pointer.
Heading into the final quarter, Bullitt Central held a 43-41 edge.
Over the first five and a half minutes of the fourth quarter, North Bullitt managed just three free throws. Bullitt Central answered with 11 points, surging ahead 54-44 with 2:43 remaining when Craddock hit two free throws. Craddock scored 13 of Bullitt Central’s 19 points in the fourth quarter.
After the 35 points from Craddock, Bullitt Central also got 11 points from Schnellenberger and nine points by Shepherd.
Bullitt Central’s defensive job was to try and contain Goeing and Collins and they did that. Goeing finished with 15 points and Collins had only a single basket.
“Our big guys shut them down defensively,” Lee said of the North Bullitt inside players. “Goeing is a good player and he is going to score. Holding him to 15 points is pretty good.”
North Bullitt head coach Brain Courtney said after the game that after watching the Cougars crush Holy Cross, that he wanted to take Shepherd and Schnellenberger out of the offense as much as possible, even if that meant letting Craddock run free.
“He’s a good player,” Courtney said of Craddock. “We knew they played well when Schnellenberger and Shepherd scored in double figures. They had like 25 and 18 in the previous game. We held them in check, but Caleb got too many points.”
North Bullitt also started having foul trouble in the second quarter when Bullitt Central got back in the game.
“Three of our starters ended up with two fouls and I had to take them out,” Courtney noted. “We lost momentum after that. It was like back-to-back-to-back.”
Still, the first-year head coach felt that his played its best game of the season to this point.
“The kids played really hard. If we had played our first two games like that we would be 2-1 instead of 0-3,” Courtney said. “Hopefully, the kids have learned that we need to play every game like we played tonight.
“As coaches, we try to prepare them for every game (the same),” the coach added. “But, being a district rival and a county rival, they will be up for this game more than the other games.”
Goeing had the 15 points to lead the Eagles while junior Zac Lamkin scored 14 points. North Bullitt also got 11 points from senior Adrian Wethington.
The two rivals will meet again on Jan. 13 in Shepherdsville. That game will be counted in the district seeding process for the post-season tournament.
At North Bullitt
BULLITT CENTRAL 62 (6-24-13-19) Caleb Craddock 35, Ryan Schnellenberger 11, Damon Shepherd 9, Luke Whitmore 2, John Sullivan 5.
NORTH BULLITT 49 (17-12-12-8) Brandon Goeing 15, Zac Lamkin 14, Ryan Collins 2, Adrian Wethington 11, Jared George 3, Lucas Johnson 14.
BC Rolls Again
Less than 24 hours after beating North Bullitt, Bullitt Central was back at home on Saturday and picked up a nice victory as they turned back Waggener 79-70.
Bullitt Central’s ‘big 3’ combined to score 70 of the points as Schnellenberger led all scorers in the game with 28 while both Craddock and Shepherd finished with 21 points. Schnellenberger connected on five of the eight three-pointers that Bullitt Central had in the win.
At Bullitt Central
WAGGENER 70 (9-12-30-19) Hurd 27, D. Maddox 6, Adams 6, Stallard 1, Durham 2, Newton 16, R.Maddox 12.
BULLITT CENTRAL 79 (24-21-12-22) Caleb Craddock 21, Ryan Schnellenberger 28, Damon Shepherd 21, Corey Smith 5, John Sullivan 1, Aaron Duckett 3.
North Wins First
On Saturday, North Bullitt bounced back in a big way and they picked up the first victory for head coach Brian Courtney as they rolled past Shelby County 96-74.
The Eagles were focused from the opening tip as they raced out to a 23-8 lead after one quarter. Unlike the Bullitt Central game, the Eagles kept the offense rolling, scoring at least 23 points in every quarter in rolling to the win over the winless Rockets.
North Bullitt got double-doubles from Brandon Goeing and Lucas Johnson. Goeing had a game-high 30 points and also pulled down 15 rebounds while Johnson scored 17 points with 11 rebounds.
The Eagles also got 12 points from Lamkin and 11 from Collins.
For the game, North Bullitt shot 61 percent from the field including a 11 of 16 performance from beyond the arc.
At Shelby County
NORTH BULLITT 96 (23-23-27-23) Adrian Wethington 6, Brandon Wilder 3, Brandon Goeing 30, Ryan Collins 11, Zack King 3, Jared George 1, Ricky Dunnavan 3, Zac Lamkin 12, Zach Geralds 2, Lucas Johnson 17, Shelby Rose 6, Shane Hardin 2.
SHELBY COUNTY 74 (8-23-24-19) Individual scoring not available.