SHEPHERDSVILLE – The Bullitt Central Lady Cougars opened the Sixth Region Tournament short-handed on Tuesday and it showed in the first half against Holy Cross.
With regular starters Lexi Graham and Kasey Renfrow on the bench with injuries, the Lady Cougars fell behind the ‘other’ Cougars on Holy Cross’ home floor 16-11 after one quarter and the margin expanded to 33-18 by halftime.
The Lady Cougars kept battling in the second half, cutting the lead to as little as seven points, but they could not get any closer before losing 63-49.
The fact that Bullitt Central kept fighting was no surprise. When the two teams met back on Feb. 7 in Shepherdsville, the Lady Cougars rallied from an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime before eventually winning the game 62-59.
This time, Holy Cross did a better job on keeping Bullitt Central from making a really big run.
“We made several runs at them,” Bullitt Central head coach Kyle Roach said the next day. “We had it down to seven. We just couldn’t get over that hump.
“They did a better job than they did the first time when we did make runs,” the coach pointed out. “Anytime we got close, they made a big play for a big shot. We just couldn’t get it any closer.”
The draw was great for Bullitt Central. The other two first-round options were Butler or Mercy. So, with a win already under their belts against Holy Cross, Bullitt Central made the trip to Dixie Highway with confidence.
“We were confident,” Roach explained. “But, it’s been an emotional two weeks for us with the injuries and then the snow days and we weren’t able to get a lot of work in. We basically showed up and played and we still had a chance.
“Plus, we only hit one three-pointer,” the coach pointed out. “If we had shot better, we could have had a chance.”
None of the players that Roach had available on Tuesday night had ever played in a regional tournament game before. On the entire roster, only Renfrow would have played in a regional game two years earlier, the last time Bullitt Central advanced to that level.
The Lady Cougars have no seniors on the team so this was a great experience for the next few seasons.
“We seemed focused,” Roach said of the bus ride to Holy Cross. “We just didn’t knock down shots. They were loose and ready to play. We didn’t do a lot different. The girls responded to us trapping in our press in the game like we did with North Bullitt in the second half (in the 23rd District championship game).”
Bullitt Central finished the season with a 17-13 record with bigger plans for next season with everyone returning.
“It was great for us,” Roach said of getting to play in the Sixth Region Tournament. “We were happy with the way the season went. When we get everyone healthy, we’ll be excited for the future.”
Junior Emily McKnight led Bullitt Central with 13 points as nine different Lady Cougars scored in the game.
Holy Cross (15-14) was led by sophomore Olivia Morabito with 20 points while Beth Newton had 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Holy Cross advanced to the Sixth Region semi-finals where it was eliminated by Butler on Thursday.
Girls’ Sixth Region Tournament at Holy Cross HS
BULLITT CENTRAL 49 (11-7-15-16) Breanna Richardson 6, Emily McKnight 13, Belle Leonard 7, Stephanie Still 7, Shelby Ross 1, Sierra Graham 2, Courtney Johns 2, Bethany Peercy 6, Kaitlyn Graham 5.
HOLY CROSS 63 (16-17-15-15) Hockman 11, Miller 5, Lockwood 6, Morabito 20, Blackwell 9, Newton 12.