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MOUNT WASHINGTON – Veteran Bullitt East Lady Charger basketball coach Chris Stallings always expects his teams to be better in March than they were in December.
For the most part, that is a goal accomplished. It is just that in some years some teams show a greater improvement than other squads.
This past season, the Lady Chargers may have even exceeded the growth that Stallings expected. By the end of the season, the red and gold were challenging the top teams in the state.
The final game was not exactly what Stallings would have liked as the red and gold lost to Butler 50-30 in the semi-finals of the Sixth Region Tournament, but otherwise the season was a sweet one for the coach.
Bullitt East finished with a 24-8 record.
“It was a real solid year,” Stallings said at the start of his end of season review. “Half of our losses were to teams playing in the state tournament. Against that type of competition we had a real solid year.
“I can’t say enough about the senior leadership we got,” the coach added. “That really helped make things go smoothly.”
Bullitt East had only three seniors this season. Cady Cornell started most of the games during the season while Taylor Williamson and Sara Stevens provided depth coming off the bench.
“The kids worked and they worked hard day in and day out,” Stallings said. “It’s good to see that paying off.”
At one point, the Lady Chargers were only 6-3, but then the squad played well in the holiday tournaments. There was a bump in the road with a 76-45 loss to Mercy in early January, but after that loss the team won 11 of its next 12 games with the only loss coming to the state’s fourth-ranked team – Manual. In that run, Bullitt East beat 16th-ranked Sacred Heart.
In the post-season, the Lady Chargers cut the gap down with Mercy, falling 54-43 in the championship game of the 24th District Tournament. That led into a Sixth Region Tournament meeting with North Bullitt that the Lady Chargers won 59-46. Three nights later, the season ended with the loss to Butler.
The best news is that Bullitt East should be better next season. Stallings’ team returns four starters along with eighth-grader Lindsey Duvall who actually led the team in scoring at 14.8 points a game despite not starting a single game. The team’s leading rebounder was sophomore Kylee Willis and junior Emily Fryman led the team with 82 assists.
There were many games this season in which Stallings used all 13 of his players including three eighth-graders. Bullitt East’s junior-varsity team posted a 15-0 record which included two wins over Mercy and one against Sacred Heart.
Because of the talented eighth-grade group which moved up to join the Lady Chargers, Bullitt East actually had two freshmen teams. Because of that, it is hard to give an exact record for that group
With all of that good news, it not hard to say that the Lady Chargers will start next season ranked among the top 25 teams in the state and could well be the early favorite in the always-tough Sixth Region.
“We know that and they know that we have work to do in the off-season and fall,” Stallings said. “If things go right, we could have another solid squad.
“Night in and night out we can be good,” the coach added. “That’s the key. We still have things we have to work on and improve on.”
There will be ten of the 13 varsity players back next season and players from the younger teams looking for playing time.
“There will be some different roles,” Stallings said. “We have to step into those.
“There will be competition for playing time and that’s good,” the coach pointed out. “That’s a good thing when it is done in the right way.”
Stallings said last week that he has just about completed the schedule for next year. The team will once again host a holiday tournament before Christmas and will then head to Charleston, South Carolina for the Carolina Classic Tournament between the two holidays. There will also be the Louisville Invitational Tournament.
The coach is has a couple of openings and is working to get a game against Anderson County, the squad that will probably start next season ranked number one in the state.