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SHEPHERDSVILLE - The final score had Bullitt Central defeating district foe North Bullitt 78-65.
But those who packed into the Cougar Den on Friday night knew that for the first 30 minutes, it was a dogfight.
“That was a great basketball game against two evenly matched teams,” said Lady Cougar head coach Bryan Bates following his team’s victory. “They hit the basket well and we hit it very well.”
For a team shooting under 30 percent from beyond-the-arc, it was some clutch three-pointers in the fourth quarter that helped erase a seven-point deficit.
“I’m so proud of my girls for not quitting,” said Bates, whose team is now 10-6). “It was our best game of the season.”
When Caitlin Montgomery scored to open the fourth quarter, North Bullitt extended its lead to 59-52. That’s when the three-point shooting for Bullitt Central took over.
Kristen Collins hit back-to-back treys to narrow the lead to one with 6:01 left to play. After Savannah Morrison scored two of her game-high 31 points, Kayla Riggs nailed a three-pointer to knot the score.
Quiet for most of the game, Kaitlyn McKnight came alive in the final quarter. She would hit a free throw to claim the lead for good at 62-61. After a North Bullitt turnover, McKnight was fouled and hit both free throws.
Katie Downing his a pair of charity tosses to get the Lady Eagles within one but Seaera Minyard hit the first free throw and McKnight rebounded the miss and scored.
North Bullitt’s final basket came at the 2:53 mark when Morrison hit two free throws. It also resulted in Minyard’s fifth and final foul.
It was then time for Selena Yunt to step up and drill a pair of three-pointers to secure the win.
“You could see her confidence growing,” Bates said of Yunt. “She can shoot the ball.”
Yunt had one three-pointer coming into the game. She ended the night hitting four of her six attempts beyond the arc. Bullitt Central was 11 of 23 for the night, the first time to be close to the 50 percent mark.
“It’s confidence,” said Bates. “We want them to shoot good shots. They need to have that confidence.”
With Riggs back running the team from the point, Bates said he feels very good about his team. The junior had 21 points, including three from long range.
“When she makes good decisions, she’s one of the best point guards in the region,” said Bates. “She’s hard to press and she just has to continue to make good decisions.”
Despite Minyard having a low scoring game, Bates said other players picked up the slack.
“It was a battle all night between two very good teams,” said Bates. “It is a good win.”
Four Lady Cougars scored in double figures, led by 21 from Riggs and 19 from McKnight. Yunt had 17 and Collins had 15.
For Amber Courtney, a Bullitt Central graduate, it was another learning experience for her team.
“I thought we were a bit sluggish in the fourth quarter,” said Coy, whose team is now 11-6). “We had some miscommunications on defense and that’s all it takes against a good team.”
Even with her team leading at the end of the third quarter, Courtney said she wasn’t feeling well.
“Our defense generates our offense and I didn’t think we played good defense tonight,” said Courtney. “We gave up a lot of open shots.”
Giving an open perimeter shot will usually result in a basket, said Courtney.
She was very pleased with the continued improvement inside of Montgomery, who scored 18 and got over a dozen rebounds.
“They had trouble handling her inside,” Courtney said of Montgomery.
Part of the scoring drought in the fourth quarter resulted from not getting the ball to Morrison enough. Trying to give her a rest, Courtney moved Morrison from the point guard position at times.
Despite facing constant defenders, Morrison was able to score 31 and hit five three-pointers.
“We tried to keep the ball away from her,” Bates said in terms of his defensive strategy against Morrison. “It didn’t work.”
Still, Courtney said the relative inexperience of her team, which had two eighth-graders on the floor at times, the team is still learning how to win.
“I’m still flabbergasted at how well we are doing,” said Courtney. “We are getting better every game, which is our goal.”
At BULLITT CENTRAL 78 (16-21-16-25) Kayla Riggs 21, Kaitlyn McKnight 19, Selena Yunt 17, Kristin Collins 14, Seaera Minyard 5, Chasity Hodge 2
NORTH BULLITT 65 (15-18-24-8) Savannah Morrison 31, Caitlin Montgomery 18, Katie Downing 6, Reba Stice 5, Holly White 4, Kasey McCoy 1