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LOUISVILLE - Bullitt East and North Bullitt did get to meet a second time this season.
After having just one game scheduled for the first time in 32 years because of realignment, the girls’ teams got a second meeting Monday in the opening round of the Sixth Region Tournament at Atherton High School. The contest was the first ever between two Bullitt County basketball teams at the regional level.
In the end, Bullitt East used stronger play in the two middle quarters to roll past North Bullitt 62-50. The Lady Chargers had a 36-20 scoring advantage in the second and third quarters as they pushed the lead to as many as 19 points in the second half.
The two teams had met just two weeks earlier with Bullitt East pulling out a 63-57 victory at home.
“I thought we were more consistent with the effort tonight,” Bullitt East head coach Chris Stallings said, comparing the two meetings with North Bullitt. “We had a few days to prep and the girls did a good job.
“We’ve really struggled with the effort and consistency each day in practice. Our play has shown that,” the coach added. “Tonight we were ready and we played well for four quarters. I was really proud of the girls and I told them that after the game.”
This was the first trip to a regional tournament for North Bullitt since 2005. Bullitt East has played in the last two Sixth Region championship games and while only two present players saw significant playing time in those games, the Lady Chargers were familiar with the atmosphere.
The most important job for Bullitt East on Monday was to survive North Bullitt’s opening salvo. The Lady Eagles were riding a wave of emotion after scoring 22 straight points over the final nine minutes of the district final as they beat Bullitt Central.
That emotion carried over to Monday as a large contingent of green and gold fans made their presence known early in the game. That carried over to the floor as the Lady Eagles raced out to a 7-2 advantage after Savannah Morrison’s three-pointer. Bullitt East pulled even at 9-9 when Nikole Isabel nailed a three-pointer and the Lady Chargers took the lead for good at 14-13 when seventh-grader Lindsey Duvall converted a three-point play in the final minute of the quarter.
Duvall’s play started a nine-point surge that pushed the red and gold ahead 20-13. North Bullitt was still within 25-20 before back-to-back three-pointers from Duvall and Isabel made it a double-digit margin for the first time in the game. At halftime, Bullitt East had a 33-24 edge.
“It’s a four quarter game,” Stallings said of getting past North Bullitt’s emotional high. “I talked to my kids about that before the game. It’s the post-season and there will be highs and lows. As long as you play hard it will work out.”
When the Lady Chargers scored the first eight points of the second half, including a three-pointer by Emily Fryman, all the emotion was on the Lady Chargers’ side.
“We stopped making shots,” North Bullitt head coach Amber Courtney said. “We left them open a couple of times and they hit some big shots. But we just stopped putting it in the basket.”
North Bullitt made seven of ten free throws in the first half, but then missed ten chances in the second half.
“We still missed several free throws,” Courtney pointed out. “You have to make those. It we make a few here and there it changes the momentum.”
Isabel, who has the most post-season experience of any of the Lady Chargers, led all scorers in the game with 19 points. The senior made only two shots, both three-pointers, but did convert 13 of 14 foul shots.
Bullitt East was 30 of 39 at the foul line while North Bullitt was 16 of 29 in a game that had 46 fouls called.
The Lady Chargers also got 13 points off the bench from sophomore Courtney Pfister along with 11 rebounds from freshman Kylee Willis who added eight points.
North Bullitt was led by eighth-grader Katie Downey who scored 14 points. Sophomore Savannah Morrison added 11 points, but did not play over the final ten minutes of the game.
The Lady Eagles also turned the ball over twice as many times as the ten that Bullitt East had.
The win advanced Bullitt East to Wednesday’s Sixth Region semi-finals where they will meet up with Butler, a team that defeated Pleasure Ridge Park 72-47. That game will be at 5 p.m. at Bellarmine University’s Knights Hall.
Bullitt East and Butler have met in the last two Sixth Region finals with Butler winning both games by a combined four points.
The most successful season in the program’s history ended for North Bullitt with a 22-10 record. The Lady Eagles won 20 games for the first time in the program’s history and won a district title for the first time since 1979.
“I’m not disappointed,” Courtney said of the final loss. “We can’t be disappointed in what we accomplished. We accomplished a lot more than anyone expected. The kids can’t hang their heads.”
Girls’ Sixth Region Tourney at Atherton HS
BULLITT EAST 62 (16-17-19-10) Emily Fryman 6, Courtney Pfister 13, Lindsey Duvall 8, Ashley Duvall 4, Nikole Isabel 19, Taylor Blain 4, Kylee Willis 8.
NORTH BULLITT 50 (13-11-9-17) Rachel Badgett 4, Hunter Roeder 2, Holly White 2, Shelby Morrison 5, Katie Downey 14, Savannah Morrison 11, Caitlin Montgomery 4, Reba Stice 2, Kasey McCoy 6.