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HEBRON ESTATES - Not every night could be Feb. 6 for the North Bullitt Eagles this season.
For one night, the green and gold put all the pieces together. The result was a 56-48 victory over Southern, the team that earned the top seed in the 24th District Tournament and eventually reached the district final before losing a close game to Fairdale.
Most of the rest of the season was one frustration after another for the Eagles. The team ended up with only four victories in 28 games and Southern was the only team they defeated that ended up with a winning record.
“In wins and losses it was not a productive year,” head coach Lee Barger said last week. “We were very happy with the way the kids worked hard and tried to do the best in the circumstances no matter the situation.
“We took a lot of pride in being able to compete and play every time we went out there,” the coach added. “There were a lot of things we are proud of even if the record was not so good.”
In all honesty, Barger knew that this season would be a struggle before it started. The Eagles did not return a lot of experience and there was very little height.
“We knew we had a lot of inexperienced kids,” the coach pointed out. “We lost almost all of our scoring from last year. We expected to struggle in numerous ways.”
First and foremost, the Eagles could not score. Only Brown and Portland Christian scored few points per game than North Bullitt amongst teams in the Sixth Region. There were 15 games in which the green and gold failed to score at least 50 points. The team scored 23 points against Trinity and 30 points against John Hardin.
“We struggled with the lack of ball handling and that led to us not being able to score,” Barger pointed out. “We turned it over and never got into our offense. That put us at a disadvantage.”
But on Feb. 6, North Bullitt put together the strong outing against Southern, winning 56-48. It was the last time during the season that the team exceeded 50 points.
“That was our best week of practice. The kids were focused,” Barger recalled. “There were no distractions. They were really tuned in and they played like they practiced.
“That was the biggest problem with this year’s team was not being able to concentrate on the small details,” the coach concluded. “Those lapses really cost us.”
North Bullitt also suffered from the fact that other than shooting guard Travis Ridley, Barger never knew from game to game or even from half-to-half, which players could make a significant contribution.
“Ridley was our one solid contributor,” the coach said of the junior who averaged 12.6 points a game. “He was our best defensive player and scorer. He was our silent leader on the floor. I thought Keaton Aubrey was developing well and then got hurt in the Bullitt East game and that set us back.”
The Eagles also had a number of injuries and that made consistency difficult to come by.
“We kept searching for a combination of the right kids,” Barger said. “That was another problem because we didn’t know what the kids would do. Other than Travis we didn’t know who would play defense and give us offense. There was zero consistency this year.”
The program had six seniors all year. Barger said that Justin Higdon had expressed some interest in perhaps playing at the next level. Another senior, Ivan Tischendorf, will be playing football next year in college. The other will just go on and be college students.
The North Bullitt junior-varsity program finished with a 6-10 mark this winter. That group was made up mostly of sophomores.
The Eagle freshman team, led by Brandon Goeing and Josh Tyler, did finish with a winning mark at 11-7. Goeing played some key varsity minutes, but at times missed varsity games to stay with the freshmen.
Ridley returns next year, but there will be plenty of opportunities for players to earn starting spots next winter.
“We really have to improve individually to compete in our district and region,” Barger said. “We’ve worked extremely hard in the off-season as a team, but we have to have players who want to put in more time on their own to compete.”
North Bullitt will take part in a lot of summer games and Barger said that his youth camp will be held at the school the week of June 8.
Barger is reshaping the team’s schedule for next season to provide a little better competition level. The coach has added some of the smaller schools in Jefferson County to the slate.
One addition to the schedule will be a tournament that North Bullitt will host December 21-23 next year. The event will benefit the Mary Barger Scholarship Fund that the coach has set up to honor his late mother. That will be an eight-team event with a field that includes Bullitt Central, Collegiate, St. Francis, Hancock County, Reidland and Spencer County. The coach is still seeking a sponsor for that event.
North Bullitt will then return to the tournament at LaRue County after Christmas.
The Eagles will definitely not play in the Louisville Invitational Tournament next year. An offer has been made to include the Bullitt County schools in that event, but North Bullitt (as well as Bullitt Central) have opted not to be involved.