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BARDSTOWN – Despite lacking experience and seniors, the Bullitt Central Lady Cougars showed some moxie on Tuesday as they opened the 2013-14 season with a 50-45 victory at Thomas Nelson High School.
Bullitt Central did it against a team that started three seniors. In addition, the Lady Generals had already played a game, albeit, a lopsided loss to LaRue County, one of the top teams in the state this season.
The Lady Cougars did it while never trailing. The game was tied at 25-25 midway through the third quarter, but coach Kyle Roach’s team scored the next seven points and the home team got no closer than three points the rest of the way.
Bullitt Central secured the win by connecting on 13 of 20 free throw chances in the fourth quarter. That turned out to be the difference as Thomas Nelson hit only seven of 16 charity tosses down the stretch.
“I always take a win,” Roach said with a smile after stepping out of a meeting with his players. “I’m always glad for that.
“That’s a young basketball team and they are learning,” the coach added. “Hopefully, we can take from this and carry it into Friday night’s game.”
(Unfortunately, Friday’s game at Oldham County was postponed due to snow. A make-up date will be announced later.)
Bullitt Central actually, never trailed in the game after scoring the first six points of the contest on baskets from Kasey Renfrow, Lexi Graham and Stephanie Still. The Lady Cougars were still up 13-11 at the first break and led 18-11 at one point in the second quarter before the Lady Generals pulled within 22-21 at halftime.
Thomas Nelson then pulled even for the only time in the game at 25-25 on two free throws by Evelyn Tichenor with 3:49 remaining in the third quarter. Bullitt Central answered with two free throws by Still and another by Graham before Still and Belle Leonard scored inside over a two-minute span to push the lead to seven points.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Lady Cougars were up 32-27. Thomas Nelson did narrow the gap to 36-33, but they would get no closer. After the margin was at three points, Breanna Richardson nailed a three-pointer and then Graham hit four straight free throws to make it 43-33.
For the entire game, Roach and his team battled foul trouble, particularly from the inside players – Still, Leonard and Renfrow. That forced the coach to constantly rotate his players. By the midway point of the fourth quarter, all three of those players had four fouls and Still and Leonard would eventually foul out.
But the Lady Cougars got strong guard play from Graham, a sophomore and Richardson, a junior, to maintain their advantage. The two combined to score 29 points as Richardson had 15 points fueled by a trio of three-pointers. Graham ran the team’s offense and made 10 of 15 free throws for her 14 points.
Richardson had almost no varsity experience coming into this season.
“That’s fantastic for her,” Roach said. “She needed that for confidence. All the girls tonight took a step growing up.”
Last season, if Bullitt Central won, it was because they attacked the basket led by then senior Kayla Riggs. In this opener, the Lady Cougars rarely got to the basket and that will have to change according to Roach.
“We didn’t attack their zone very well,” the coach pointed out. “Lexi has that ability. She has to learn that. We have to attack the gaps and finish some shots at the rim.”
Bullitt Central converted 17 of 27 free throw chances while Thomas Nelson was 21 of 33.
“We didn’t shot free throws well in our last scrimmage, but we worked on that,” Roach said. “We do shot a lot of free throws (in practice).”
Thomas Nelson had three players in double figures as Tichenor finished with 12 points while Kaylee Dickson had 11 and Lisa Jo Wygal had 10.
At the snow time off on Friday, Bullitt Central is scheduled to play at Beth Haven on Monday and then has a very important 23rd District game on Tuesday at Southern High School. The Monday game is a girls’ only contest while the Southern game is a girl/boy doubleheader slated to start at 6 p.m.
At Thomas Nelson
BULLITT CENTRAL 50 (13-9-10-18) Lexi Graham 14, Breanna Richardson 15, Kasey Renfrow 2, Stephanie Still 8, Belle Leonard 9, Cortney Johns 2.
THOMAS NELSON 45 (11-10-6-18) Dickson 11, Tichenor 12, Wolf 4, Wygal 10, Orr 3, Reiter 2, Ritchie 3.