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SHEPHERDSVILLE – After scoring the final seven points of the first half to break open a one-point game, the North Bullitt Lady Eagles pulled away in the second half on Friday to beat Bullitt Central 78-55.
The win was the second this season for the Lady Eagles over their county rivals. North Bullitt beat Bullitt Central 68-56 on Dec. 13.
However, this victory was more important as the second meeting has been designated as the game that will be used for seeding the 23rd District Tournament in late February. North Bullitt has won the last two district titles.
At this point, North Bullitt stands at 1-0 in district play while Bullitt Central is 1-1 and Southern is 0-1. Moore has not played any district games after bad weather postponed a date with North Bullitt. No make-up date as yet been set for that game.
On Friday, the first 14 minutes of the game were close as the two teams battled on equal footing. Bullitt Central got within a single point on three different occasions midway through the second quarter, the last at 27-26 on two free throws by Lexi Graham.
North Bullitt then grabbed control of the game over the final two minutes of the half despite missing three free throws. The Lady Eagles got baskets from Katie Downey and Lauren Deel as well as single free throws from Savannah Morrison, Hailey Free and Downey to go to the intermission up 34-26.
Bullitt Central started the second half with four quick points on two free throws from Belle Leonard and a basket by Shelby Ross, but when North Bullitt scored the next six points, the Lady Eagles were in control. Coach Amber Courtney’s team moved out to a 56-42 lead after three quarters and then pulled away down the stretch.
“We got off to a slow start,” Courtney said after coming out of the locker room. “We did a better job shooting the ball in the second half.
“Then my players off the bench played very well,” the coach added. “I’m simply ecstatic with them. They had like 15 points in the third quarter.”
Bullitt Central got 14 points from sophomore Lexi Graham in the first half, but then only three in the second half.
“She is their go-to person,” Courtney noted. “We were pressing, but we struggled with that a little bit. Then we pulled back and they had trouble with that.”
Bullitt Central head coach Kyle Roach thought his team should have been leading for much of the first half, but just could not convert when they had chances.
“We had a lot of (good) looks and didn’t score,” the coach said. “We had a lot of turnovers. We fouled a lot and they hit their free throws.
Being down by eight points at halftime after being so close for much of the half forced the Lady Cougars into doing some things they didn’t want to do.
“That put us in a tough spot,” Roach agreed. “That made us do things we don’t like to do. Then we didn’t take care of the ball.
“We knew it would take a tough effort and no mistakes for us to have a chance to beat them,” the coach said. “That is a good team and they were better than us tonight.”
While there were spurts of strong play, there were also long stretches of standing around as the game had 55 fouls whistled, with 32 of those on Bullitt Central. That translated into 70 foul shots being taken and the game lasting almost two hours.
“There were a lot of fouls both ways,” Courtney admitted. “It’s tough when you play to about 8 o’clock (after starting at 6 p.m.). It was a tough game, but they should have let some of that go (without calling fouls).
“But we have to adjust,” the coach added. “It’s not their job (the officials to adjust). We still fouled.”
North Bullitt finished 26 of 41 at the foul line for the game. More than half of the misses came in the fourth quarter when the game was pretty much decided. Bullitt Central went to the line 29 times, making 17, but they did miss five chances in the third quarter when the outcome was still in question.
Both teams rode strong offensive efforts from their leading scorers.
Morrison, North Bullitt’s leading scorer this season, led all scorers in this game with 25 points. The Lady Eagles also got 20 points from Downey, with half of her points coming at the foul line.
Bullitt Central got 20 points from Leonard, a player who once played for North Bullitt when she was in middle school. Graham had the 19 points, but the only other Lady Cougar to score more than four points was Bethany Peercy with seven.
The North Bullitt game was only the second time Bullitt Central had played at home this season.
North Bullitt (12-1) had to cancel a game for earlier this week because Portland Christian does not have a team. The Lady Eagles will be back on the court on Thursday when they play at Presentation. The green and gold will then play at John Hardin on Friday.
Bullitt Central (7-6) could not bounce back from the loss to North Bullitt on Friday as they dropped a game on Saturday afternoon to Bardstown 60-55. The Lady Eagles also played at top-ranked Elizabethtown on Monday and they will play at Oldham County on Thursday and at Seneca on Friday.
At Bullitt Central
NORTH BULLITT 78 (16-18-22-22) Savannah Morrison 25, Maria George 5, Katie Downey 20, Erin Dolan 2, Rachel Badgett 4, Megan Goeing 4, Lauren Deel 4, Shaina Blankenship 4, Devyn Tompkins 2, Hailey Free 8.
BULLITT CENTRAL 55 (15-11-16-13) Lexi Graham 17, Breanna Richardson 4, Kasey Renfrow 2, Belle Leonard 20, Shelby Ross 4, Bethany Peercy 7, Emily McKnight 1.