FAIRDALE - The Bullitt East Chargers didn’t play a late game on the final night of the Canfield Development King of the Bluegrass Holiday Tournament.
The Chargers only played half of their four games in the ‘big’ gym.
There was no trophy on Tuesday when the team finished tournament play in the middle of the afternoon.
Still, Bullitt East’s third trip and second in the past four years to the state’s most prestigious regular season tournament was a success. The Chargers faced some of the best teams in Kentucky and posted a 2-2 record. Unlike half the teams in the 16-team event, Bullitt East advanced to play on Tuesday.
“I’m happy,” veteran Charger head coach Troy Barr said after the fourth game. “We had a chance for the third win and we didn’t make it. If we shot it better we could have.”
The Chargers started play against Lexington Catholic, a team ranked seventh in the state in a pre-season coaches’ poll. In the end, the Chargers had too many rough stretches that led to a 75-62 setback.
That dropped the red and gold into Saturday night’s late consolation contest and the Chargers put together a sterling second half to beat former Eighth Region rival Anderson County 66-61. Bullitt East trailed 29-23 at halftime and was still down by two points before outscoring the Bearcats 25-18 over the last eight minutes.
Against Bardstown on Monday night in the ‘small’ gym, Bullitt East put together a more complete game, passing Bardstown early in the second quarter and then rolling to a 78-54 victory that might have been the team’s best overall performance of the season to that point.
That set up a meeting in the consolation bracket final against Male on Tuesday afternoon. Against one of the traditional powers in the state, Bullitt East shot just 30 percent from the field but still had a chance to steal the victory before falling 61-54.
That action left Bullitt East with a 5-4 record heading into a very short Christmas break. After playing on Tuesday, the Chargers will be back in the gym on Friday before heading to northern Kentucky on Saturday to start play in the 16-team Lloyd Memorial Invitational.
Taking on a talented Lexington Catholic squad, Bullitt East played a lot of good minutes. Unfortunately, there were three bad stretches that overshadowed the better play as the red and gold were beaten 75-62.
Bullitt East trailed 10-2 to start the game and this time the Chargers were able to overcome that deficit, thanks mainly to the hot shooting of sophomore guard Hayden Sweat. Sweat came off the bench midway through the first quarter and converted three consecutive three-pointers to push Bullitt East ahead 13-10.
The first quarter ended with Lexington Catholic on top 16-15.
While the offense was heating up, it was fouls that were causing problems for the Chargers. Center Willie Moore picked up his second foul right after his team pulled even at 10-10 and then his back-up, Corey Washburn, picked up his third foul with 3:19 remaining in the first half. Over the final 90 seconds of the first half, both Moore and starting guard Tyler Downs picked up their third fouls.
When Washburn went out, the game was tied at 26-26. Lexington Catholic then scored six straight points. After Adam Kelty hit two free throws, the Knights scored five more points, racing out a 37-30 halftime edge.
This time the Chargers could not overcome their deficit. Lexington Catholic opened the second half with 12 straight points to take its biggest lead of the contest at 49-30.
It just took too much energy for the Chargers to narrow the gap. Late in the third quarter the red and gold got within 11 points but still trailed by 14 entering the fourth quarter.
Bullitt East’s final surge came to start the final frame. Sweat started things with a three-pointer and then Moore quickly scored a pair of baskets. When Sweat hit a jumper inside the arc, Bullitt East was within 56-51 with 6:26 to play.
Unfortunately, that was as close as the Chargers could get. The two teams then exchanged baskets before the Knights scored nine straight points to regain control of the contest.
Lexington Catholic is known for its full-court defensive pressure. Bullitt East had worked on that in practice, but it is hard to duplicate.
“We got down early at 10-2 and had to call a time-out,” Barr noted. “Then, when we got our wits about us we were fine. Then we had some problems at the end of the half.
“We did not come out in the second half very focused,” the coach added. “We made some adjustments and played hard and the kids played well. But, I think we were worn out.”
Bullitt East had 27 turnovers, ten more than the Knights.
“There is constant pressure on the ball all the time,” Barr pointed out. “You have to make good decisions. We were thinking too much and not reacting enough. Our teammates didn’t help each other.”
Before the game, Barr had written on the board that rebounding and turnovers would make the difference. The Chargers ended up with ten more turnovers and were outrebounded 38-32.
“Those were number one and two on the board,” Barr said later. “We knew those two things would be key. We knew those would decide the winner and they did.”
Both Sweat and Moore finished with 21 points for the Chargers while Kelty tossed in 14 points. Moore led Bullitt East with 12 rebounds.
Lexington Catholic had four players score between 12 and 16 points led by the 16 of senior Taylor Botkin.
Old Rivalry Renewed
Forced to the consolation bracket on Saturday, the Chargers ran into a old foe as they squared off with former Eighth Region rival Anderson County and head coach Glen Drury.
Bullitt East again had some issues in the first half, but the Chargers came out in the second half and put together two good quarters, rallying from a six-point deficit to beat the Bearcats 66-61.
The big problem early came in the second quarter as the red and gold were outscored 15-7. Bullitt East had only a pair of three-pointers by Kelty and a free throw to show for eight minutes of work.
In the third quarter, Bullitt East converted 10 of 12 free throw chances as they pulled within 43-41. The free throw shooting was also good for the Chargers down the stretch as they hit on 17 of 22 chances as they built as much as a nine-point edge with three minutes to play.
Anderson County did get a pair of three-pointers from Landon Jenkins but Kelty made seven of eight free throws in the final 2:30 to secure the win. Kelty needed each of those makes as Anderson County pulled within four points in the closing minute.
“We played a great second half,” Barr said later. “We were down by six or seven at half and Willie had zero points. He wasn’t working and we weren’t getting him the ball.
“Coach (Junebug) Rakes had a spirited halftime chat and helped turn it around,” the head coach said. “Willie had 18 points in the second half. This team feeds off Willie touching the ball.”
Bullitt East also got 18 points from Kelty along with 15 points by Grant Polson.
Anderson County All-State candidate C.J. Penny had 22 points for the Bearcats, but the 6-5 forward did not take over the contest.
“Tyler Payne guarded him quite a bit of the time,” Barr said. “Penny had 22, but it was a quiet 22. He didn’t make any big shots. Tyler did a great job on him.”
Bullitt East ended up converting 29 of 37 free throw attempts.
Nearly Complete Package
It wasn’t a perfect performance, but the Chargers came a lot closer to 32 minutes of good basketball on Monday as they beat Bardstown 78-54 in the semi-finals of the consolation bracket.
While the two schools are just 15 miles apart, this was a rare meeting between the two programs.
The only bad stretch for the Chargers came midway through the first quarter when the Tigers scored 11 straight points to take a 19-9 lead. That was a short-lived advantage as Bullitt East scored 11 of the last 13 points of the quarter to get within 21-20.
That was just a taste of what Bullitt East could do. Behind the outside shooting of Sweat, who nailed four three-pointers and had 16 points in the second frame, Bullitt East raced out to a 43-31 lead by halftime.
Sweat finished with 19 points in the first half and scored 27 in the victory.
In the second half, Bardstown never got closer than 11 points.
“We started good for two or three minutes,” Barr noted. “Then we had a three or four minute spurt where we got lackadaisical. We talked about putting together two good halves and tonight we were awfully close and showed how good we could be.”
The first change was to alter the defense to keep Bardstown from attacking in transition.
“The first thing I said was we had to take away their transition offense,” Barr recalled. “They were pushing it down our throats. Then we had to do the same thing to them. When we got settled in our half-court defense we were fine.”
Of course, Sweat making shot after shot made a lot of things look good.
“Two people told me after the game what a great coaching job I did,” Barr said with a smile. “I just told them that when the shots go in you look good as a coach. It makes a bad coach look good.”
Bullitt East also got 16 points and nine rebounds from Moore as well as 11 from Kelty and ten from Brandon Alphin off the bench.
Damien Edelen led Bardstown with 17 points.
Playing its second top-10 Kentucky opponent of the tournament, Bullitt East struggled mightily with their shooting in a game that started just 16 hours after the game with Bardstown ended.
Still, the Chargers made a late run, cutting a 12-point deficit to 55-52 with a minute to play. The Chargers had scored seven straight points and after a technical foul on Male’s D’Carlo Hayes, Adam Kelty hit two free throws to make it a one-possession game. With a minute remaining, Kelty drove to the basket and drew the fifth foul on Leland Jones.
Unfortunately, Kelty, an 82 percent foul shooter, missed both chances at the line. Hayes then converted six straight free throws in the final 57 seconds to seal the win for the Bulldogs.
Bullitt East made just 16 of 51 shots in the game.
Male is just not the team you want to be facing when you shoot 30 percent.
“No, they are not,” Barr noted. “They are so sound defensively that you won’t get many good looks. When you do get good looks, you have to convert and we didn’t.”
“I have no complaints,” the coach said of the overall team play on Tuesday. “The effort was there. Just some nights the shots don’t fall. We forced turnovers and shot free throws well. The other shots just didn’t go in.”
Bullitt East was outrebounded 31-19 in the loss, but forced 22 turnovers while making only 13 against the quick Male defense.
Kelty led Bullitt East with 22 points as he connected on 12 of 15 free throws attempts. Moore collected ten points before he fouled out midway through the fourth quarter.
Hayes led Male with 21 points while O.J. Bell finished with 17 points.
Canfield Development King of the Bluegrass Holiday Tournament
At Fairdale HS
BULLITT EAST 62 (15-15-12-20) Adam Kelty 14, Tyler Downs 2, Hayden Sweat 21, Grant Polson 4, Willie Moore 21
LEXINGTON CATHOLIC 75 (16-21-19-19) Ramsey 2, Sanford 14, Martin 12, Schuete 5, Beckham 9, Botkin 16, Talbott 2, Peurach 15.
BULLITT EAST 66 (16-7-18-25) Adam Kelty 18, Tler Downs 5, Hayden Sweat 3, Brandon Alphin 3, Grant Polson 15, Tyler Payne 4, Willie Moore 18.
ANDERSON COUNTY 61 (14-15-14-18) Wa. Rubbles 2, Wi. Ruggles 2, Penny 22, Jenkins 15, Russell 14.
BULLITT EAST 78 (20-23-17-18) Kodey Kearney 2, Adam Kelty 11, Tyler Downs 2, Hayden Sweat 27, Brandon Alphin 10, Grant Polson 8, Adam Edge 2, Willie Moore 16.
BARDSTOWN 54 (21-10-16-7) S. Edelen 9, D. Edelen 17, Hall 7, Hickman 13, Osborne 4, Phillips 4.
BULLITT EAST 54 (13-10-12-19) Adam Kelty 22, Tyler Downs 5, Hayden Sweat 5, Brandon Alphin 3, Grant Polson 7, Tyler Payne 2, Willie Moore 10.
MALE 61 (14-13-17-17) Hayes 21, Jones 5, Reynolds 7, Winebrenner 3, Glenn 2, Logan 2, Bell 17, Brasher 4.