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SHEPHERDSVILLE - It was almost déjà vu again.
‘Almost’ being the key word Friday night as Bullitt East survived a late run by Bullitt Central to secure a 56-51 victory. The win gave the Lady Chargers the number one seed for the post-season 24th District Tournament that will be played on the same court the final week of February.
When the two teams clashed back on the first Friday of the season, Bullitt Central had rallied in the fourth quarter and beat Bullitt East 57-50. This time, Bullitt East led by as many as 15 points early in the second half and they were still up by 14 late in the third quarter before the Lady Cougars roared back to within 51-49 on a three-point play by Seaera Minyard with 36 seconds remaining in the game.
This time, Bullitt East made the big plays and the hit the key free throws down the stretch. The Lady Chargers were five of six at the charity stripe in the final 29 seconds, including three by senior Meredith Polson, to secure the victory.
The two teams came into the contest as the second- (BE) and third-ranked teams in the Sixth Region and they put on an impressive performance.
Veteran Bullitt East head coach Chris Stallings admitted after the game that he was having flashbacks to the December game as Bullitt Central cut into the big lead.
“We talked about that during one of the time-outs,” Stallings said. “We said how two months ago we were in the same situation and we didn’t do enough to win. I asked what we had learned. I was proud of the girls for stepping up and hitting some free throws and grabbing some big rebounds.”
Bullitt Central shoots a lot of three-pointers and while they made nine of those in this game, they only had two after they were behind by 14 points. Both of those were made by senior Keoka Hilliard, who hit six of the bombs for the game, but the Lady Cougars narrowed the gap when they started driving to the basket and getting fouled.
Coach Bryan Bates’ team did not attempt a free throw over the first three quarters, but then made 10 of 13 over the final seven minutes.
“We just tried to defend regularly since they are tough to defend when they get going,” Stallings said. “I thought for the most part we did a good job of keeping them in front of us.
“We also rebounded our misses better than the first game,” the Lady Charger coach said. “We also handled their pressure better.”
Despite the loss, Bates was smiling after the game. The key reason for that was that his team got better in the fourth quarter. Just three days earlier, on a road trip to LaRue County, the Lady Chargers had scored just three points in the fourth quarter of a lopsided loss.
“Our girls did not quit and battled back,” Bates said. “That’s a big change over Tuesday night. I’m not discouraged after this game. I’m actually encouraged.
“We battled and had a fighter’s mentality,” the coach BC coach added. “They never did quit.”
The game started as an outside shooting contest. The two squads combined to make seven threes in the first quarter and that helped Bullitt Central grab a 14-12 lead. When the shots stopped falling in the second quarter, it affects the Lady Cougars more than Bullitt East as the red and gold surged ahead 32-19 at halftime.
Bullitt East led 34-19 when Lindey Young scored the first basket of the third quarter and while both teams struggled to score in the third frame, the Lady Chargers were still up 39-25 when Nikole Isabel scored in the final minute of the quarter.
Bullitt Central’s big rally started with a three-pointer by Keoka Hilliard at the end of the third frame and then the fourth quarter shifted into high gear. The Lady Cougars were still down 43-33 with 5:12 to play before Hilliard scored seven of the next nine points to pull her team within 45-40.
Bullitt East still had a 49-42 lead with 1:29 to play when Bates put the ball into the hands of sophomore Kayla Riggs. She started driving to the basket. The sophomore hit two free throws at 1:21 and then a basket at :53 that cut the margin to 50-46.
Isabel got one free throw, but then Riggs drove into the lane and passed to Minyard who scored as the was fouled. Her free throw at :35.8 cut the margin to 51-49. Polson stopped the Bullitt Central momentum with two free throws and after Bullitt Central turned the ball over, the senior forward hit one free throw.
Bullitt Central did get back to within three points on two free throws by Kaitlyn McKnight at :21.3, but the Lady Chargers put the game on ice when senior Whitney Stansbury drained two free throws moments later.
“We know we have grown up some, but we have not learned everything we need yet,” Stallings said. “This group will come in the gym to work to get better.”
The electric atmosphere at Bullitt Central on Friday was a preview of the post-season wars that lie ahead.
“It’s good to play in front of that,” Stallings said. “Playing the LIT helped us with tonight’s atmosphere. It was a great crowd. It had a post-season feel to it. This is where the 24th District Tournament is so it’s nice to play here late in the year.”
Young paced Bullitt East with 18 points while Isabel finished with 17.
Hilliard led all scorers in the game with 22 points.
After playing three games over the weekend, Bullitt East will not play again until Saturday when they travel to John Hardin for the Valentine Invitational. The Lady Chargers will battle Nelson County at 6 p.m.
Bullitt Central will close out the regular season with a pair of week in which they will play three games. This week, the maroon and gray faced Presentation on Tuesday and on Thursday they will host Western in a single varsity game at 6 p.m.
On Friday, Bullitt Central will host North Bullitt. That contest will not be used in the final standings for the post-season district tournament.
At Bullitt Central
BULLITT EAST 56 (12-20-7-17) Emily Fryman 5, Ashley Duvall 1, Nikole Isabel 17, Whitney Stansbury 3, Taylor Blain 7, Meredith Polson 6, Lindey Young 18.
BULLITT CENTRAL 51 (14-5-9-23) Keoka Hilliard 22, Ashleigh Pollard 6, Rachel Farber 1, Seaera Minyard 7, Kaitlyn McKnight 6, Kayla Riggs 6, Kristen Collins 3.
Saturday Night Blow-Out
Squeezing a make-up game into the schedule at home on Saturday, the Lady Chargers had way too much firepower for Presentation as Stallings’ team rolled to a 67-41 victory. That was the 20th victory of the season for Bullitt East.
Isabel was hot from the outside with four three-pointers as she paced the Lady Chargers with 18 points. Young added another 16 points to the rout.
Ashlee Kirchner was the leading scorer for Presentation with 10 points.
At Bullitt East
PRESENTATION 41 (13-5-9-14) Humphreys 5, Reeder 9, Adams 8, Kirchner 10, Degner 4, Andres 5.
BULLITT EAST 67 (21-19-12-15) Courtney Pfister 5, Nikole Isabel 18, Whitney Stansbury 4, Sable Logsdon 6, Rachel Broughton 5, Taylor Blain 3, Meredith Polson 6, Lindey Young 16, Maggie Smith 4.