MOUNT WASHINGTON - Bullitt East Lady Charger head coach Chris Stallings doesn't like to lose, but on Tuesday the longtime coach could see a lot of good points after his team's 60-55 loss to Butler.
It was just a year ago that a sick and injured Bullitt East squad suffered an embarrassing 50-26 loss to Butler in the third game of the season to fall to 1-2. That Lady Charger squad improved and three months later had Butler on the ropes before the Bearettes scored the final six points of the game to win 50-48 in the semi-finals of the Sixth Region Tournament.
That Butler team went on to reach the state tournament and reached the quarter-finals before the season ended.
This season, Butler started the season ranked seventh in the state and they had their hands full with the Lady Chargers.
In fact, Bullitt East led 31-24 at halftime and pushed that to double digits when Taylor Blain opened the second half with a three-pointer. Butler rallied to within 41-40 entering the fourth quarter and they moved ahead for the first time at 47-45. Bullitt East was still within 50-49 with three minutes to play before the Bearettes hit six of eight free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
"I thought Butler did a good job in the second half of going out like a champion," Stallings said in his office after the game. The intensity was up. The intensity was up and I don't think we did a good job matching it.
"We did some thing and reacted in some ways we haven't done all fall," the coach added. "Our kids are disappointed with the outcome and so are we as coaches."
While neither team did poorly at the foul line, Butler had two fewer chances, but made two more free throws (24 of 32 to BE's 22 of 34). The Bearettes, who did not shot a free throw in the third quarter, were 14 of 20 in the final frame.
"That hurt us," Stallings admitted. "The free throws game hurt us. Then we gave up two rebounds on the offensive end after they missed free throws."
Butler is led by senior Aaeron Smith, a senior who was ranked in the pre-season as the eighth best player in the state. Smith had 19 points on Tuesday.
"We just tried to change up and mix-up the defenses," Stallings said. "We just have to communicate better as we go forward with matching up out of the defense."
Bullitt East has played some good teams already in scrimmages and the first week of the season, but Butler forced a few more errors with their athleticism.
"That's part of the disappointment," Stallings noted. "We did things and reacted in ways I had not seen this year.
"We just have to be a little tougher," the coach added. "It has to matter a little more to us every day."
Bullitt East had to 34-24 lead after Blain hit the three-pointer to open the second half only to have Butler go on a 10-2 surge to get back in the game. In fact, no player scored for Lady Chargers over the final five minutes of the third quarter except for eighth-grader Lindsey Duvall.
In the fourth quarter, as Bullitt East stayed close, junior Emily Fryman had two baskets and Blain scored three points. Blain hit three of four free throws which included one off a technical foul on Butler that gave the red and gold its final lead at 48-47 with just over four minutes remaining in the game.
Duvall was the only Bullitt East player in double figures as she collected 17 points. Blain finished with nine points.
Besides the 19 points from Smith, Butler also got 15 points from Danielle Lawrence and 11 from Alexis Stallard.
Now, Bullitt East knows the gap they have to make up in the Sixth Region.
"It's like I told the girls, it's only December 4th," Stallings said. "They know and we know that we have to be better in March. And we'll have to play better in March."
Bullitt East played on Saturday in the All Good Classic at Manual. The Lady Chargers then do not play in the early part of this week before they travel to Central on Friday and then play at Bullitt Central on Saturday against Meade County in the Bullitt County Cup.
At Bullitt East
BUTLER 60 (9-15-16-20) Stallard 11, Elliott 1, Pearson 3, Lawrence 15, Smith 19, Winebrenner 6, Casey 2, Bowen 3.
BULLITT EAST 55 (14-17-10-14) Emily Fryman 7, Courtney Pfister 5, Lindsey Duvall 17, Kaleigh Sharpe 4, Cady Cornell 5, Taylor Blain 9, Mackenzie Bass 4, Kylee Willis 2, Raegan Williams 2.