LOUISVILLE - Even the best ride at Disney World eventually comes to an end.
The Bullitt East Chargers were reminded of that on Saturday morning as a remarkable 40-hour run in the 2011 Boys’ Louisville Invitational Tournament came to an end against eventual champion Eastern 88-52 in Saturday morning’s first semi-final.
It was the second loss this season for the Chargers to the powerful Louisville school. The Eagles had beaten Bullitt East 76-59 in the opening round of the King of the Bluegrass Tournament.
On Saturday night Eastern beat Ballard for the LIT title.
Bullitt East head coach Troy Barr didn’t think his team was emotionally or physically drained for the game against Eastern after the Chargers upset top-ranked Jeffersontown 56-54 a day earlier in overtime. Actually, Eastern and Jeffersontown came into the LIT sharing the top-ranking in the state in the most recent computer numbers.
“I really didn’t see it that way,” the veteran coach said of any letdown by his team after the big win the day before. “We didn’t shoot it well and they did. When they shoot like that, nobody can beat them.
“They are too quick and too good and too athletic to beat if they shoot like that,” Barr added. “Nobody can beat them.”
Eastern didn’t really shoot the lights out by the numbers. The Eagles were 32 of 63 from the field, but the team seemed to make every big shot that was needed.
Bullitt East battled through any letdown in the first half and after trailing by as many as 14 points early in the second quarter, the Chargers got back within nine points in the final minute of the half. Eastern then played for a final shot over the last 30 seconds and connected on a mid-range jumper by Remy Abell.
It was still an 11-point margin early in the second half when Eastern stepped back and drained three straight treys including back-to-back baskets by Arman Marks. Moments later, Abell hit another three-pointer and when Lyonell Gaines got inside for a basket, Eastern had a 46-26 lead and the outcome was no longer in doubt.
“Honestly, that’s the guy we wanted to shoot the threes,” Barr said of Marks. “What we heard is that his percentage is not that good. Give him credit. That is what opened up the game.”
Marks had four of the six three-pointers that Eastern connected on in the win.
“We can’t match up with them one-on-one,” Barr pointed out. “We have to let him have some of those shots and hope he misses. He made those shots today.”
How good is Eastern, a team ranked 34th in the country in one national poll? The Eagles raced up and down the floor for 88 points on Saturday morning and turned the ball over just four times.
Bullitt East couldn’t keep up the pace. For the game, the red and gold converted just 13 of 39 shots. In the first half, the rebounding numbers were even at 18-18. In the second half, Eastern outrebounded the Chargers 22-8.
Against Jeffersontown the night before, Bullitt East had gotten a lot of mileage out of its 2-3 zone defense. On Saturday morning, the Chargers started in a triangle-and-two formation.
“We didn’t block out of it very well,” Barr lamented. “We work on that, but sometimes young defenses don’t rebound well.”
Eastern was led by seniors Abell and Gaines with 18 points each while the team got 12 points from Marks and ten points from Byron Sanford. Abell has already singed to play at Bradley next season while Gaines will be playing at IUPUI. Kameron Woods, who has signed with Butler, had just four points in this game for the Eagles.
The Chargers answered with 14 points and eight rebounds from sophomore Derek Willis while senior Hayden Sweat had 11 points. Rusty Troutman had nine points and seven rebounds.
Bullitt East had never won a game in the Louisville Invitational Tournament in four previous trips. Getting two wins this time was a big step forward.
“It was a great experience,” Barr concluded. “I was disappointed that the first was moved to Doss (because of bad weather earlier in the week). We wanted to get on this floor (at Bellarmine which will also be the site of the Sixth Region Tournament in March).
“This was a great stage and a positive experience,” the coach added. “This is disappointing, but the last 12 hours have been a lot of fun.”
The Chargers have just a short time to shake off any LIT cobwebs. The team will be back in action on Tuesday at home against Nelson County and later in the week will host Spencer County on Thursday before hosting North Bullitt on Friday for homecoming.
At Bellarmine University
BULLITT EAST 52 (11-11-15-15) Luke Francke 1, Cody Mattingly 3, Rusty Troutman 9, Hayden Sweat 11, Kory Caufield 4, Elliott Young 2, Chris Embry 1, Derek Willis 14, Corey Washburn 7.
EASTERN 88 (16-17-27-28) M. Davis 2, Taylor 2, Abell 18, Sanford 10, Clements 4, Carleuv 8, Gaines 18, Blade 6, Woods 4, J. Davis 3, Marks 12, Garman 1.