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East programs end regular season against strong foes

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By Mike Farner

MOUNT WASHINGTON - The final week of the regular season meant four games against top-flight competition for the teams from Bullitt East.

For coach Troy Barr’s Chargers, it was a pair of regularly scheduled games that presented tough hurdles that it is hoped will prepare the team for this week’s 24th District Tournament at North Bullitt as well as the rest of the post-season road.

To start, Bullitt East picked up its first win at DeSales since the Chargers moved into the Sixth Region. After blowing a big lead in the fourth quarter, the red and gold rallied to secure a 73-66 decision on Tuesday.

Two nights later, it took an overtime for Bullitt East to turn back visiting Fort Thomas Highlands by an 80-76 count. Highlands scored just before the buzzer to force the overtime and then led by as many as three points in the overtime before the Chargers rallied with a three-pointer from Adam Kelty and then a three point play by Brandon Alphin before hitting four free throws in the final 27 seconds to seal the win.

For the girls, Lady Charger head coach Chris Stallings was looking to add a game for the final week to make up for some games snowed out earlier in the month. The coach couldn’t have found a tougher foe as Manual, the state’s sixth-ranked team, and the only team to beat Iroquois this season, came to town to play a contest after the boys’ game against Highlands.

The Lady Chargers put up a strong defense, but Manual kept a safe distance in the second half before winning 72-58.

A night later it was homecoming at Bullitt East for a girls’ only night, but the Lady Chargers just could not pull out a win over traditional state-power Sacred Heart, another top-10 team in the state this season.

Sacred Heart rallied in the second half to win 76-67.

Chargers Finish Strong

Against Highlands, Bullitt East trailed for much of the game before making it close in the fourth quarter. The Bluebirds were up 53-50 entering the fourth quarter, but the Chargers moved ahead 63-52 on two free throws by Alphin with 3:23 to play. It was back-and-forth from that point and the game was tied at 67-67 when Bullitt East called a time-out with a minute to play.

Barr opted to pull the ball out and force Highlands to shift from their zone defense to a man-to-man look. The Bluebirds did that with 40 seconds to play and then Bullitt East put the ball into the hands of Kelty. He drove into the lane and then pulled up, hitting the 12-foot jumper with 28 seconds to play.

Bullitt East got the ball back, but missed two free throws with 10 seconds to play. That allowed Highlands to work for a final basket, going inside to center Taylor Grubbs who scored as the clock ticked to :03.2, forcing the overtime.

Highlands scored quickly, going up 74-70 before Kelty drained a three-pointer. After the visitors scored again, Alphin stole the ball on the defensive end and went in for a lay-up as he was fouled. The three point play tied the scored at 76-76 with 1:41 to play.

At the other end, Grant Polson blocked a Highlands’ shot and got the ball to Kelty who was fouled. The senior hit both foul shots. Highlands had two chances but misfired twice in the final ten seconds and Tyler Payne accounted for the final score with two free throws at :02.

There was a high-level of play at both ends, but also some miscues.

“When you have two quality basketball teams you will make mistakes,” Barr said after the game. “We responded to every mistake and did good things. I’m pleased with where we are right now.”

Bullitt East was only 7-8 after a losing streak at the first of the year. Since that time, the team has rallied to a 19-9 mark, losing just once.

Bullitt East got a career high 25 points from Polson, a senior who was performing on Senior Night.

“He’s a big reason that we won tonight,” Barr noted. “Willie (Moore) and Adam (Kelty) were off tonight and Grant picked us up.”

The Chargers did get 15 points from Kelty along with 11 from Moore.

Highlands was led by Grubbs who had 28 points with 22 of those coming in the first half.

Against DeSales two days earlier, Bullitt East had a 44-24 lead at halftime only to have the Colts erase the whole margin by the middle of the fourth quarter. The Chargers then rallied for the 73-66 win.

“We looked like world beaters in the first half and had a 24-point lead,” Barr recalled. “They did a great job coming back in the second half and made it really close.

“I think it is the first time we have won on that floor,” the coach added.

DeSales connected on six three-pointers in the second half.

Bullitt East had double-digit scoring from four seniors. Kelty led the way with 18 points while Tyler Downs had 13 points, Polson 12 and Moore 11.

DeSales was led by sophomore Sam Keehner who finished with 17 points. Keehner was a teammate of many of the younger Bullitt East players when he played at Mount Washington Middle School.

At DeSales HS

BULLITT EAST 73 (23-21-14-15) Adam Kelty 18, Tyler Downs 13, Hayden Sweat 6, Brandon Alphin 4, Grant Polson 12, Tyler Payne 3, Adam Edge 5, Willie Moore 11.

DESALES 66 (11-13-20-22) Keehner 17, Blackwell 6, Maynard 5, Ritchie 14, McCauley 6, Sanford 8, Thornberry 10.

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At Bullitt East

HIGHLANDS 76 (15-22-16-16-7) Lather 7, Kowdoreck 13, Smith-Keller 5, Watson 10, Dill 5, Grote 6, Grubbs 28.

BULLITT EAST 80 (18-21-11-19-11) Kodey Kearney 4, Adam Kelty 15, Tyler Downs 6, Brandon Alphin 13, Grant Polson 25, Tyler Payne 2, Adam Edge 2, Corey Washburn 2, Willie Moore 11.

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Lady Chargers Stumble

After playing the top two teams in the Sixth Region earlier in the season, Bullitt East Lady Charger head coach Chris Stallings thought that he would take on two of the best teams in the Seventh Region to close out the season.

The results were not positive, but the Lady Chargers played well against two of the best teams in the state to close out the regular season last week.

The team did it under difficult circumstances. On Thursday afternoon, Stallings put himself in the hospital with chest pains. He was kept overnight, missing the game against Manual. After a stress test on Friday was negative, he returned to the sideline and coached on Friday.

Against Manual, assistant coach Christal Scott, who is Stallings’ sister, ran the team.

Facing Manual, Bullitt East was up 18-13 before the Lady Crimsons scored the last seven points of the first quarter. Bullitt East regained the lead at 22-20 only to see Manual run off the next eight points to take the lead for good.

The Lady Chargers trailed 43-30 at halftime and could get no closer than nine points in the second half.

“He was the one who worked hard to get a game so we could have a Senior Night,” Scott said of her brother adding the Manual game just 48-hours before it was played. “We are sorry he couldn’t be here for that. He was really working hard to get another game.”

Manual was just a little too quick for the Lady Chargers to overcome. They pressed for most of the game and forced numerous turnovers.

“We’ve been working against presses,” Scott said. “That seems to be a nemesis of ours. It shouldn’t be. We have good kids who can handle it. They just have to slow down and make good decisions. We didn’t do that tonight.”

Ten different players scored for Bullitt East including two points from senior Megan Willey. She has not played this season after suffering a knee injury back during the summer. Manual was nice enough to ‘trade’ baskets at the start of the game with Willey on the court.

The Lady Crimsons won the tip and without any defense being played tossed the ball under the basket to Avery Jones who laid it in. Bullitt East then threw the ball to Willey under the basket and she scored an uncontested lay-up. The game was then stopped and Willey returned to the bench.

Kayla Thacker led Bullitt East with 17 points.

Against Sacred Heart, Bullitt East got off to a great start before a large homecoming crowd. The red and gold were up 38-36 at halftime, but then scored just nine points in the third quarter. Sacred Heart then sealed the win at the foul line in the closing minutes.

Thacker had a big game with 26 points while fellow junior Shelby Romine had 12 points.

That action left Bullitt East with a 20-8 record heading into the post-season.

At Bullitt East

MANUAL 72 (20-23-14-15) Hickson 8, Bodine 2, Wison 18, Guess 16 Martin 8, L. Wright 3, K. Wright 10, Jones 7.

BULLITT EAST 58 (18-12-12-16) Jaime Simpson 2, Jessica Philpott 12, Chelsey Smith 8, Shelby Romine 8, Jade Troutman 2, Kayla Thacker 17, Megan Willey 2, Lindey Young 2, Jackie Stevens 3, Samantha Johnson 2.

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At Bullitt East

SACRED HEART 76 (17-19-16-24) Hafele 18, Clemons 11, Peabody 7, McGral 10, Miller 14, Campbell 8, Storch 6, Katzman 2.

BULLITT EAST 67 (14-24-9-20) Shelby Romine 12, Jaime Simpson 3, Chelsey Smith 8, Kayla Thacker 26, Jade Troutman 3, Samantha Johnson 4, Lindey Young 9, Meredith Polson 2.