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SHEPHERDSVILLE - Trailing 17-4 after the first quarter of Monday's opening round game of the Boys' 24th District Tournament, the situation appeared dire for the Bullitt Central Cougars against arch-rival North Bullitt.
Apparently, it really is darkest before the dawn.
Connecting on three consecutive three-pointers over the first 2:30 of the second quarter, the Cougars got back in the game, finally pulling even at 23-23 before heading to the locker room with the score knotted at 25-25.
Again, in the first 90 seconds of the third quarter, the Cougars faced adversity as both Caleb Craddock and Mike Kean picked up their third fouls and headed to the bench. North Bullitt put three quick points on the board, but that was about the last positive thing to happen for the Eagles.
Bullitt Central scored 12 of the next 13 points and took control of the game. The game belonged to the Cougars from that point as North Bullitt could get no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
By the end, Bullitt Central had a 59-46 victory, their third win in four games against North Bullitt this season.
"We got off to a really bad start," Bullitt Central head coach Joe Pat Lee said after the game. "We weren't making shots and not attacking the glass. Plus, we weren't playing any defense. It was just a horrible start."
But the three consecutive bombs changed the complexion of the game. Freshman Damon Shepherd came off the bench to hit the first one and that was followed by long shots from Jason Creason and Jesse Vittitoe.
"We finally it some shots and attacked the basket and were able to kick it out (for the three-pointers)," Lee said. "We got the press going and played better defense."
The win was only the fourth this season for the Cougars and three of the wins have come against North Bullitt.
The win advanced the Cougars to the tournament's semi-finals on Thursday where they will face top-seeded Southern in a game set for 6 p.m. Bullitt Central has lost twice this season to the Trojans.
Creason, along with Vittitoe, are the team's only seniors. Creason finished with a game-high 21 points in this contest including a trio of three-pointers as he scored 11 points in the second quarter when Bullitt Central got back in the game.
The senior was not too worried when the score was 17-4. He just felt that he had to take some of the burden on his own shoulders.
"There is always that responsibility as a senior," Creason said. "There are only two of us. It was tood to see everyone fall under our wings in a district game."
Bullitt Central had fallen behind North Bullitt in some of the earlier meetings so the big deficit was not the end of the world.
"The first time we played them it was the same situation," Creason pointed out. "I knew we could come back. I didn't worry as much if it had been a different team. I was still confident."
Over a 19 minute span from the time that it was 17-4, Bullitt Central outscored the Eagles 46 to 16, pushing the margin to 50-33 and pretty much putting the game on ice.
North Bullitt's final advantage was at 28-25 less than two minutes into the second half. Bullitt Central then got six points from Creason and four from T.J. Flener as well as hoops from Jeremaie Bennett and Travis Stepp to take a 39-29 edge.
The only basket for North Bullitt in the third quarter was a lay-up by Keaton Aubrey in the final minute of the quarter. In the fourth quarter, the Eagles didn't get a basket from the field until Cody Dewitt drove through the lane and scored with less than a minute to play. A pair of late three-pointers by C.J. Parker just made the final score look a little better.
"We played super that first quarter," North Bullitt head coach Lee Barger said after a long meeting with his team. "We were executing the game plan and kept them in front of us. I couldn't ask for a better opening to a game."
But then, as has often been the case this season, the Eagles could not muster much offense.
"I thought our intensity level dropped considerably and we weren't using the game plan," the Eagle coach noted. "They got a little momentum. I still felt good at halftime when it was tied.
"In the third and fourth quarter it just got away from us," Barger said of his team's final game of the season.
Creason finished with 21 points and the Cougars also got ten points from Flener.
Lee was also pleased with the defense that Vittitoe and Travis Stepp played on North Bullitt junior Travis Ridley, the Eagles' leading scorer this season. Ridley did not have a basket from the floor and finished with eight points, all at the free throw line.
North Bullitt also got ten points from Addison Thomas as well as nine by Aubrey.
"Travis was sick and had a fever," Barger pointed out. "That's just one of those things you have to deal with. I'm proud of him for trying to go."
24th District Tourney
At North Bullitt
BULLITT CENTRAL 59 (4-21-19-15) Jesse Vittitoe 6, Caleb Craddock 6, Travis Stepp 2, Jason Creason 21, T.J. Flener 10, Miciah Ocasio 2, Jeremaie Bennett 6, Damon Shepherd 3, Mike Kean 3.
NORTH BULLITT 46 (17-8-8-13) Justin Higdon 7, Travis Ridley 8, C.J. Parker 8, Tony Majors 1, Addison Thomas 10, Matt Mudd 1, Keaton Aubrey 9, Cody Dewitt 2.