HEBRON ESTATES - With the third-rated team in the Sixth Region, coach Bryan Bates knew that Friday night’s game was no normal contest.
It was a battle against county rival North Bullitt.
So you throw out the records, lace up the sneakers and compete.
While North Bullitt’s young Lady Eagles were able to make a first quarter run, it was Bates’ experienced Bullitt Central Lady Cougars who would go home a 67-38 victory.
“North Bullitt is a district game and a rival game,” said Bates. “They have good, young players and you take no opponent for granted.”
While both offenses were in the flow in the first quarter, Bates said his team got better as the defense improved the final three periods.
“Our defense got us going,” said Bates, whose team had 24 deflections in the second half alone. “That’s what makes our offense go. We play good defense and that helps our offense.”
Before the defense took over, both offensive units were in high gear in the opening eight minutes.
Bullitt Central jumped out to a 7-0 lead behind the free throw of Kayla Riggs, a drive by Kaitlyn McKnight and a trey and a free throw from leading scorer Keoka Hilliard.
After Reba Stice broke the ice for North Bullitt, Valerie Terry and Ashleigh Pollard hit three-pointers.
Down 13-4, Lady Eagle Savannah Morrison scored nine of her 17 points to bring the host team to 20-15 at the end of the first quarter.
With starting center Kasey McCoy in foul trouble early in the game, Bullitt Central began to pound the boards.
Putting the pressure full-court, Bullitt Central’s defense began to grab control of the game.
The lead expanded to 30-17 as Pollard and Hilliard opened the quarter with three-pointers. Terry hit two consecutive baskets and Seaera Minyard dropped in four straight points.
At halftime, Bates’ squad went into the locker room with a 38-25 lead.
Over the course of the final 16 minutes, North Bullitt would score only 13 points while the Lady Cougars tallied 29.
Although the final rebound margin was only 10, it appeared to be much larger. Minyard and Pollard each collected 10 rebounds on the night.
“Our defense really pulled us out tonight,” said Bates, whose team went to 9-3 on the season. “We wanted to pressure full-court for the whole game.”
While he wasn’t totally pleased with the offensive performance, Bates said the second half play was much better.
On point of emphasis was Morrison, a freshman.
“We told the players to give her no space,” said Bates. “But she is a very good player.”
With a goal of being one of the top two seeds in the district tournament, Bullitt Central has the second seed assured. Now, it is looking for a top seed.
For North Bullitt coach Amber Courtney, it is always tough to lose against your alma mater.
“We tried to slow down the ball,” said Courtney. “That’s not our game but that was the only way we could compete. Bullitt Central has a very, very good team.”
For the first 12 minutes, Courtney was pleased with her team following the game plan. But the full-court pressure and North Bullitt’s inability to hit shots took their toll.
“Bullitt Central shoots the ball so well outside and then they can also go inside and score,” said Courtney. Bullitt Central hit seven three-pointers on the night while North Bullitt failed to hit a single trey.
In the second half, Courtney said the defensive rotations were slow and that allowed Bullitt Central to score at will.
“We got no easy baskets in the second half and we just never seemed to get into a flow,” said Courtney, whose team fell to 5-9.
Playing a good team with plenty of experience, Courtney said the contest only helps her squad down the road.
“I’m proud of the girls,” said Courtney. “They never gave up to a very talented team.”
At NORTH BULLITT 38 (15-10-6-7) - Savannah Morrison 17, Kasey McCoy 6, Reba Stice 5, Katie Downey 4, Shelby Morrison 2, Maggie Stinnett 1
BULLITT CENTRAL 67 (20-18-13-16) - Valerie Terry 12, Ashleigh Pollard 10, Seaera Minyard, 10, Keoka Hillard 9, Kristen Collins 8, Kayla Riggs 7, Selena Yunt 6, Kaitlyn McKnight 3, Rachel Farber 2