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OKOLONA – The North Bullitt Eagles took a big step to securing the number one seed for the Boys’ 23rd District Basketball Tournament on Monday as the green and gold overcame a few rough spots to beat defending champion Moore 65-56.
The win moved North Bullitt to 2-0 in district play with another key game on Thursday when the Eagles play host to Southern. Bullitt Central is 2-1 in the district while Moore is now 0-2 and Southern is 0-1.
After the game, North Bullitt head coach Brian Courtney said that this was more than just another game and that the Eagles are driving toward the top seed for the post-season.
“It’s important to see where we are seeded,” the coach said after the game on Monday. “They know where we stand. If we beat Southern, then we’ll be number one. That’s where we want to be.
“There are different stages to the race,” Courtney said. “Bullitt Central was the first step and now Moore. Then Southern will be the final stage.”
Just as important as the district scenario on Monday for the Eagles was that this was the sixth win in a row for the green and gold. North Bullitt has not lost since coming out of holiday tournament play and now stands 9-7 overall.
Even with all of that, Courtney feels that his team has not reached its full stride.
“We didn’t play particularly well,” the coach said of the Monday game. “We wanted a fast start. We were kind of off our game and weren’t playing well defensively. I think we can play better. The boys know that also.”
Monday’s showdown was a rare night where the boys’ game was played first before the girls’ took the court. That seemed to affect both teams coming out of the gate as the score was a lowly 10-8 lead for the Eagles after the first quarter.
North Bullitt then picked it up with a 12-4 run to open the second quarter. Junior Dominique Ellis, who scored 13 of his team-high 16 points in the first half, fueled the run with seven points. By the time Ellis capped the first half with two free throws, North Bullitt was on top 29-17.
In the second half, North Bullitt twice pushed the margin to as many as 13 points, but they could not put the Mustangs away. Almost all of the Moore (2-17 record) offense in the second half came from Kevonta Smith and Treyvon Smith. Kevonta Smith had picked up two quick fouls in the first half and sat for most of the half, but then came on to score 18 points in the second half. The other Smith connected on a trio of three-pointers in the third quarter and had 13 points in the game.
“I scouted them against Bullitt Central and knew he (Kevonta Smith) was a tough player,” Courtney said. “I knew he was their only ball handler. We didn’t let him get to his spot early but then in the second half we didn’t do as well and he got free on some pick and rolls.”
The Eagles had a 40-27 lead midway through the fourth quarter before Moore scored seven straight points. North Bullitt pushed the lead back out to 51-40 heading into the final frame only to have Moore go on a 9-2 run to get within 53-49 three minutes into the fourth quarter.
At the 4:19 mark, Moore again was within four points before Ricky Dunnavan banked in a shot and Jared Free connected on a pair of free throws. That started a 12-7 finish for the Eagles.
North Bullitt won despite missing 13 free throws (they were 20 of 33) and making only one three-pointer, normally a key part of their offense.
“Normally we’re at 75 to 78 percent,” Courtney said. “With as many guards as we have, we should be better. Tonight we didn’t do that.”
It was a balanced night on offense for the Eagles as each of the five starters scored at least nine points. Ellis led the way with 16 while Gearlds had 13 and George 10. Free and Dunnavan each had nine points.
Now, the Eagles can wrap up the number one seed with a win on Thursday at home against Southern (2-12). The game has been rescheduled from an earlier date. Again, the boys’ game will be first, at 6 p.m., while the girls’ contest will follow at around 7:30 p.m.
“I’ll always worry about Southern,” Courtney said of the life of a coach. “They have enough athletes that if you don’t do what you are supposed to do that they can beat you.”
Monday at Moore
NORTH BULLITT 65 (10-19-22-14) Chase McKenzie 3, Jared Free 9, Trent Napier 5, Jarred George 10, Ricky Dunnavan 9, Zack Gearlds 13, Dominquie Ellis 16.
MOORE 56 (8-9-23-16) Weaver 2, T. Smith 13, Richardson 10, Hgman 5, O’Bannon 4, K. Smith 18, Garcia 2, Vaden 2.
It’s not often that a basketball team trails by 13 points after one quarter and then holds its opponent to two points in the second quarter.
That is exactly how the North Bullitt Eagles worked things on Friday en route to a 79-60 victory over visiting LaRue County. North Bullitt trailed 20-7 after the first eight minutes of play and then roared back for a 26-22 lead at halftime. That pushed the Eagles to a 53 point second half as they beat the Hawks 79-60.
The two teams had met less than a month earlier in the first-round of the National Guard Tournament that LaRue County hosted and the Hawks won 47-34. That was the first game for Courtney as the head coach this season after the dismissal of then head coach Dick Briggs.
That first meeting was the lowest offensive output of the season for the Eagles. The 79-point explosion was the third best offensive show of the season for the green and gold.
Junior guard Ricky Dunnavan had almost as many points in this game as his entire team had in the first meeting. Fueled by four three-pointers, Dunnavan exploded for 29 points on Friday. The Eagles also got 13 points from Jarred George and 12 by Zack Gearlds.
Friday at North Bullitt
LARUE COUNTY 60 (20-2-21-17) Davidson 9, Howell 10, Wiseman 13, Key 10, Skaggs 3, Sheffer 15.
NORTH BULLITT 79 (7-19-28-25) Chase McKenzie 5, Jared Free 4, Trent Napier 2, Jared Higgs 3, Jarred George 13, Ricky Dunnavan 29 Zack Geralds 12, Dominique Ellis 7, Zack June 4.