OKOLONA - The appetizer was just fine for the Bullitt East Lady Chargers last week as a pair of lopsided wins led to a second straight 24th District title.
But as any good appetizer does, it just whets the appetite for the main course.
That was the reason that there were no shouts of joy or high-fives after the Lady Chargers dispatched Fairdale 43-28 on Thursday in the championship game at Southern High School. Bullitt East (25-3) has their eye on the prize this week as the red and gold enter Sixth Region play as the favorites.
Fairdale had looked impressive the night before in beating Bullitt Central 70-40 in the semi-finals. The Lady Charger players sat and watched that game, but the Lady Bulldogs’ late-season surge didn’t change the game plan for the final.
“We stuck with what got us here,” Bullitt East head coach Chris Stallings said after cutting down the net. “They did look really good last night. I would like to think we had a little to do with them not looking good tonight.”
Fairdale (12-11) did score the first four points of the game as Bullitt East started slowly for the second straight game in the tournament. Still, the defense kept the game close until Sixth Region Player of the Year Kayla Thacker got her team’s first points at the 4:07 mark. The Lady Chargers led 8-6 after one quarter and then never trailed again.
The game was decided early in the second quarter when Fairdale’s best two players, Wenisha Mack and Brittney Turner each picked up their second fouls in the first minute of the quarter. Turner went to the bench and did not return for the rest of the half and Mack joined her at the 6:28 mark after picking up her third foul.
In all, Fairdale committed 16 fouls in the first half.
Without Mack, the second-rated player in the Sixth Region, Fairdale had no offensive structure. Bullitt East’s press turned into a vice as the Lady Chargers went on a 19-3 surge that pushed them ahead 27-9 at halftime.
The rest of the game was just a walk-through to prepare for bigger things this week. Bullitt East scored just three points in the fourth quarter as they worked on spreading the floor and taking time off the clock.
“After last night we knew they were better (then when BE beat them 49-36 on Feb. 2),” Thacker said after getting a piece of the net. “We had to control Mack and control Turner. We knew if we did those things we could get the win.”
Fairdale only had four players score in the game. Turner finished with 16 points, but that was misleading as eight of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided. Mack collected nine points.
Thacker, who is rounding back into top form after missing three games in February with a back/hip injury, led Bullitt East with 17 points. Thacker was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Lindey Young came off the bench and tallied eight points for the Lady Chargers.
Bullitt East has had few dry spells this season, but they did start slowly in both of the district tournament games.
“Just sometimes our shots don’t fall,” Lady Charger senior Jade Troutman said after the game. “We just work hard to improve what went wrong. We just picked up our intensity on offense and defense.”
While there is much to look forward to, a second straight district title is still a great accomplishment.
“It feels good,” Troutman said. “It’s a lot better when you are a senior. We feel like the seniors lead this team.”
“It means a lot more,” fellow senior Shelby Romine said after the win. “It’s a little sad being your last year.”
A big week this week will cover up a lot of sadness.
“We’re really going to have to come together as a team,” Romine said. “We’ll have to play hard and have a lot of heart.”
Bullitt East will open play in the Girls’ Sixth Region Tournament at 5 p.m. on Tuesday against defending state champion Iroquois in a game that will be played at Atherton High School. The Sixth Region semi-finals and finals will be played at Bellarmine on Thursday and Friday.
Girls’ 24th District Basketball Tournament at Southern H.S.
BULLITT EAST 43 (8-19-13-3) Jessica Philpott 6, Whitney Stansbury 1, Shelby Romine 2, Jade Troutman 6, Kayla Thacker 17, Meredith Polson 3, Lindey Young 8.
FAIRDALE 27 (6-3-11-8) Brittney Turner 16, Wenisha Mack 9, Lakrista Toogood 1, Nakharra Gaines 2.