MOUNT WASHINGTON - The Bullitt East Chargers picked a bad week to play bad basketball.
Heading into action last week, the Chargers were the only undefeated team in the 24th District. By the end of the week, the red and gold had two losses and were left looking for answers.
The second loss of the week came on Friday in a familiar spot as the Chargers fell to new rival Fairdale 47-43. It was less than a year ago that Bullitt East lost the 24th District final to the Bulldogs on a mid-court shot in overtime on the same court.
The setback was the fourth in a row for the Chargers and left them with a 7-8 record.
“I wouldn’t call it a slump or a funk,” Bullitt East head coach Troy Barr said late on Friday. “We’re playing good ball for three or three-and-a-quarters. But then the calls don’t go our way or there are missed free throws or there are turnovers. It seems like we are finding a different way to do it each time.”
Worse than the one or two losses is that now the Chargers are behind the eight-ball in district play. The 24th District has three strong teams this season and now with two losses, the Chargers appear destined to finish in the second or third spot and will have to face one of the other strong teams in one of the semi-finals.
“That is what I just told the kids that we solidified playing Southern or Fairdale in the district (semi-finals),” Barr said. “Three of the top six or seven teams in the region are in this district. It’s a shame one won’t get to the regional tournament.”
Bullitt East got off a slow start on Friday. Fairdale jumped out to a quick 13-6 advantage, but Bullitt East battled back and took the lead at halftime when Adam Kelty drained a three-pointer with five seconds remaining in the second quarter.
The Chargers scored the first basket of the second half, but then again struggled for a short burst as Fairdale scored ten straight points. Still, with the help of three-pointers from Grant Polson and Kelty, the Chargers were even at 35-35 entering the final frame.
The two teams were never separated by more than five points the rest of the way. Fairdale scored the first two baskets of the frame but Kelty answered with two free throws and Brandon Alphin connected on a three-pointer with 3:02 remaining to put the red and gold on top 40-39.
That turned out to be the last lead for Bullitt East as Fairdale scored six consecutive points over the next two minutes to go up 45-40. The Bulldogs missed the front end of the bonus twice between the 1:32 mark and 47 seconds remaining in the game, but Bullitt East could counter with just one free throw. Fairdale made just two of six free throws in the final 90 seconds but the Chargers just could not take advantage of the openings.
With 20 seconds to play, Fairdale C.J. Mack hit one free throw to make it 46-41 and with eight seconds remaining Bullitt East’s Tyler Downs grabbed a loose ball and scored inside. Mack then sealed the game at :01.1 with one free throw to account for the final four-point win.
“We talked a lot about little things before the game and against a halftime,” Barr said. “This time we did some little things. We shot poorly but we were still up two at halftime. Then we had a four-point lead and we have three turnovers and a missed shot and we’re down four (early in the third quarter).”
Both teams struggled mightily with their shooting.
Bullitt East made just 14 of 46 shots in the game and were only five of 24 from beyond the arc. Fairdale was only slightly better at 20 of 51 shooting and they did not make a three-pointer.
One difference was that Fairdale had a 35-21 rebounding advantage, but that was negated as the Bulldogs had 21 turnovers to just 12 for the Chargers.
Bullitt East got 18 points from Kelty and nine from Polson but no other player for the red and gold scored more than five points.
Fairdale had three players in double figures led by Quintrell Morris with 15 while Mack had 14. Josh Stroud tossed in 10 points as only five Bulldog players scored in the game.
Barr isn’t pushing the panic button at this stage.
“We’re close,” the coach concluded. “We just have to fix some things and get on a roll. It’s a fine line between winning and losing this game. It’s as much mental as physical.”
Fairdale and Bullitt East will meet again on Jan. 28 in Mount Washington.
BULLITT EAST 43 (12-11-12-8) Adam Kelty 18, Tyler Downs 2, Hayden Sweat 1, Brandon Alphin 5, Grant Polson 9, Justin Smith 2, Corey Washburn 2, Willie Moore 4.
FAIRDALE 47 (15-6-14-12) Mack 14, Stroud 10, Slaypool 2, Mooris 15, Andrews 6.
Lady Chargers Roll
Because they had a game the very next morning at 11 a.m., the Bullitt East Lady Chargers were not looking to make a blow-out statement on Friday night against Fairdale.
The Lady Chargers did more a workmanlike job as they posted a 67-55 victory to remain undefeated in 24th District play this season. It was Bullitt East’s second win over the three-time defending district champions this season.
It was a battle in the first half. Fairdale actually led 15-14 at the end of the first quarter and they pushed that to 24-17 early in the second quarter. Bullitt East then answered with 11 straight points, including five by senior Jaime Simpson.
The Lady Chargers never led after that point, taking a 34-30 lead into halftime. It didn’t take long for the red and gold to take control of the game in the second half as they scored the first 11 points of the frame en route to a 19-4 advantage in the third quarter.
Fairdale never got closer than nine points the rest of the way as the Lady Chargers rested their starters for much of the fourth quarter.
“I think tonight the one thing that concerned me was the way we started,” Bullitt East head coach Chris Stallings said. “Our effort was good and mentally we were OK, but we just didn’t get off to a good start. We made some good adjustments and I thought the girls did a nice job coming out of the locker room (for the second half).”
The coach wasn’t pushing in the fourth quarter, but he would like to see his back-ups player better.
“In the fourth quarter it was just a combination of a few things,” the coach said. “Those can be fixed. We got that lead and some of our kids let up. We can’t do that.”
Once again, Bullitt East was led in scoring by junior Kayla Thacker with 14 points while senior Jaime Simpson tossed in 12 points.
Fairdale only had four players score, but they got 23 points from Kayla Thompson and 18 from Wanisha Mack.
The win moved Bullitt East to 10-4 overall.
Bullitt East played Presentation earlier this week and they will be back in action on Thursday at home against Spencer County. The boys will play the first game that night at 6 p.m. with the girls game to follow.
BULLITT EAST 67 (14-20-19-14) Jaime Simpson 12, Chelsey Smith 8, Nikole Isabel 3, Shelby Romine 6, Jade Troutman 1, Kayla Thacker 14, Meredith Polson 2, Lindey Young 6, Kelly Cunningham 2, Jackie Stevens 8, Samantha Johnson 5.
FAIRDALE 55 (15-15-4-21) Mack 18, Thompson 23, Gaines 6, Sleets 8.