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LOUISVILLE - Coaches love to say that ‘defense is forever.’
That was certainly the case for the Bullitt East Lady Chargers on Tuesday in the first-round of the 2011 Girls’ Louisville Invitational Tournament. The defense was stout for four quarters against Seventh Region foe Fern Creek as the red and gold rolled to a 59-48 victory.
It just took the offense a little time to get up to speed to match the defense.
Bullitt East trailed 12-2 after the first quarter in the last opening round game, having gone over six minutes without a basket after getting the first points of the game. It was the defense that kept the margin as close as it was.
It was early in the second quarter that the offensive light bulb finally came on. Bullitt East got back-to-back baskets from senior forward Meredith Polson to open the second frame and that was the start of something big for the Lady Chargers.
Coach Chris Stallings’ team exploded for 24 points in the second quarter to pull within 28-26 at halftime. The offensive fireworks continued in the second half as Bullitt East outscored the Lady Tigers 18-8 in the third quarter.
Fern Creek never got closer than six points in the fourth quarter.
“This was the first time a lot of girls had been on this stage,” Stallings said of playing at Bellarmine University’s Knight’s Hall in the LIT. “That showed early. We were ready to play, but we were a little nervous.”
Bullitt East got a big game from junior Nikole Isabel who put forth an offensive show of her own as she collected 25 points. That total included four three pointers and she was eight of 19 overall from the field as well as connecting on five of her six free throw opportunities.
“She stepped up big for us tonight,” Stallings said of his guard who was named the National Guard Player of the Game. “At Christmas she was struggling with her shot. We came back from that talked with her about attacking the basket. She had to balance her shots. She had eight (threes) and 11 (twos). That’s a good balance. She is one of our most experienced players and that showed tonight.”
Fern Creek has been a strong offensive team this season. In finishing second in the Lady Cougar Invitational over the holidays, the Lady Tigers had averaged 70 points in three games.
“We don’t want to get in a track meet with anyone,” Stallings noted. “Our girls settled down and did a good job defensively. A key was that we really rebounded well after the first quarter.”
The Lady Tigers have three strong players in 6-2 center Teonia McCune and guards Asia Grigsby and Rau Jau Terry. Grigsby had 19 points and Terry 13, but Bullitt East’s inside tandem of Lindey Young and Merdith Polson kept McCune from having a big game around the basket.
McCune picked up her third foul with 2:29 to play in the second quarter and Bullitt East closed the frame with a 12-8 run to get within two points. Fern Creek still had a 35-32 lead when McCune picked up her fourth foul at the 2:35 mark of the third quarter. Bullitt East then went on a 12-1 surge that broke the game open.
Fern Creek got 16 rebounds by McCune, but Bullitt East had a 48-37 overall advantage on the glass.
Bullitt East got ten points and ten rebounds from Polson along with nine points and 17 rebounds from Young.
It also didn’t hurt that the Bullitt East bench outscored Fern Creek 8-0.
“Fern Creek did a good job getting after us,” Stallings said. “Once we settled down and attacked them I think good things happened.
“They shoot it so well and score a lot of points,” the coach added. “One way to keep their shots down was to rebound the ball.”
Despite the two schools being just a few miles apart, this was the first time they had met in two years.
“That is one of their better teams,” Stallings said. “They have good players. They are tough to guard. They can score on anyone. We did a good job defensively most of the night.”
The win moved Bullitt East into the second round where they were set to take on Mercy.
At Bellarmine University
BULLITT EAST 59 (2-24-18-15) Emily Fryman 2, Ashley Duvall 4, Nikole Isabel 25, Whitney Stansbury 5, Taylor Blain 4, Meredith Polson 10, Lindey Young 9.
FERN CREEK 48 (12-16-8-12) Winstead 3, Grigsby 19, Bernard 4, Terry 13, McCune 9.