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MOUNT WASHINGTON - It’s not often that you can spot one of the top-20 teams in Kentucky a 10 point lead and still have a chance to win the game.
That was the story for the Bullitt East Chargers on Tuesday in a key mid-season match-up between Sixth Region rivals at Iroquois. Bullitt gave up 24 points in the first quarter and trailed by ten points to the Raiders before outscoring the host team in each of the next three quarters to force overtime.
That rally was nullified when Iroquois’ Brandon Whitlock nailed an 18-foot jumper that gave the Raiders a 72-70 victory.
In ten of the team’s 14 games this season, Bullitt East has gotten off to fine starts. The problem has come in the four losses. In each of those games, the Chargers have trailed by double-digit margins in the first half. In three of the four losses the red and gold have been able to battle back within four points or less, but then they have come up short at the end.
“I wouldn’t say we got off to a slow start, we just gave up too many points in the first quarter,” Bullitt East head coach Troy Barr said later in the week. “Our defensive effort wasn’t that good. We gave up too many points, but then we outscored them in each of the next three quarters.”
In fact, Bullitt East managed a three point lead midway through the fourth quarter, but could not put the Raiders away.
“There were some spots in the fourth quarter where we were up a couple of points and if we could have gotten some defensive stops we could have pulled away,” Barr said. “We were up three had a time-out and we urged them to push it out, but then we gave up an offensive rebound and gave up four points.”
Except for the opening quarter, the game was as close as the final score would indicate. Bullitt East won the rebounding battle 30-28 and had three more field goal attempts. Both teams made 29 field goals with Iroquois having one more three-pointers.
Bullitt East handed out 16 assists while turning the ball over only seven times.
In the fourth quarter the game was tied six times and the two teams had the score knotted twice in the four-minute extra period.
Bullitt East had the lead at 66-64 when senior Hayden Sweat connected on two free throws with 15 seconds remaining. Iroquois dodged that bullet when Jakki Hobbs was fouled while shooting with :03.9. He made both free throws to force the overtime.
Hobbs put Iroquois ahead in the overtime before Sweat got a basket. Hobbs then hit two free throws at the 1:22 mark to make it 70-68. Bullitt East then tied the game with 32 seconds remaining when Corey Washburn converted in the lane.
Iroquois then held the ball for the final shot. Everyone expected the ball to go to All-State forward Jermaine Jackson, but Bullitt East cut off that option. That left the ball in the hands of Whitlock and he made the big shot t win the game.
“We knew they were going to try and get Jackson the ball,” Barr said of the Iroquois’ senior who had already scored 27 points in the game. “Corey did a great job (denying Jackson the ball). They kid threw up a desperation shot off balance and it just went in. I was happy to give up that shot.”
Obviously, Bullitt East was going to try and stop Jackson in this game.
“The one thing we wanted to do was we challenged Corey to defend him,” Barr said. “Even though he had 27 points, he didn’t hit any threes. We didn’t do a good job of helping Corey when he (Jackson) put it on the floor.
“Other than stopping his threes, we didn’t have a special game plan,” the coach added.
Both Washburn and sophomore Derek Willis scored 20 points for Bullitt East. Washburn finished with eight rebounds while Willis had seven. Sweat finished with 16 points.
In fact, Bullitt East got all of its points from the five starters except for a three-pointer by junior Kory Caufield who came off the bench for his first extensive action since breaking his foot in the pre-season.
Jackson had the game-high 27 points while Hobbs scored 13 and Whitlock 10 for the Raiders.
After playing at home on Saturday against Southern, Bullitt East will be in the Louisville Invitational Tournament along with Iroquois. The Chargers will play on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. against Sixth Region foe Western in a game at Bellarmine University’s Knights’ Hall.
BULLITT EAST 70 (14-18-17-17-4) Corey Washburn 20, Derek Willis 20, Hayden Sweat 16, Rusty Troutman 8, Trey Rakes 3, Kory Caufield 3.
IROQUOIS 72 (24-13-13-16) Jackson 27, Hobbs 13, Whitlock 10, Kemp 8, Buford 4, Gibbs 7, Smith 3.