MOUNT WASHINGTON - A 17-4 surge over the final six minutes of the game was more than enough for the Bullitt Central Lady Cougars as they turned back arch-rival Bullitt East 57-50 in the first big game of the 2010-11 season on Friday.
The win set off a celebration on the Bullitt Central end of the court that is normally reserved for post-season games. It felt that way to the Lady Cougars as the win snapped a 10-game losing streak to Bullitt East.
The last time Bullitt Central beat the Lady Chargers was on Dec. 12, 2005 in a home game the Lady Cougars won 73-55. A year ago, Bullitt Central managed to score just 49 points in two games against the Lady Chargers.
“Our kids played with confidence and heart,” Bullitt Central head coach Bryan Bates said after the win. “I thought both teams played really hard.”
Bullitt Central won the game at the free throw line which increased Bates’ heart-size a few notches. The Lady Cougars converted 18 of 25 attempts including a 12 of 14 mark in the fourth quarter.
“We made free throws. Thank god we did,” Bates said. “We were like 30 percent the other night (in a season-opening win over Bethlehem). We were a lot better tonight.”
Bullitt Central seemingly had the better of play in the first half as Bullitt East battled through foul trouble. Still, as the teams headed to the locker rooms, the Lady Cougars had only a 24-23 advantage.
“Bullitt East played well with (Nikole) Isabel and Lindey (Young) out,” Bates pointed out. “I felt like we should have had a bigger lead. They hit some shots and their defense was very good.”
The Lady Chargers grabbed the early momentum in the second half and they moved ahead 30-28 on Isabel’s three-point play. The lead went back and fourth four times over the next three minutes before Bullitt East got six straight points from the 6-foot-2 Young over the final 90 seconds of the third quarter to give the red and gold a 40-37 advantage.
Bullitt East then grabbed its biggest lead of the game when Isabel nailed a three-pointer to open the fourth quarter. Bullitt Central answered with a three-pointer from sophomore Selena Yunt, but Bullitt East made it 46-40 when senior Meredith Polson connected from beyond the arc.
The home team was still on top 48-45 when Young went to the bench with her fourth foul with 3:53 remaining. Moments later, Bullitt East’s Taylor Blain scored inside to make it 50-45, but that was the end of the road for the Lady Chargers as Bullitt Central would score the final 12 points of the contest.
The surge started with a three-pointer from senior Valerie Terry and the game was tied at when Seaera Minyard hit two free throws at 2:41. Bullitt East then turned the ball over and head coach Chris Stallings had to use a time-out at 2:33.
Bullitt Central then took the lead for good on Kaitlyn McKnight’s basket. Young reentered the game with 1:51 showing on the clock but she lasted just 19 seconds, fouling out diving for a loose ball on a rebound.
The Lady Cougars then sealed the win by making five of six free throws over the final 1:32 of the contest.
Stallings liked how hard his team played, but he saw a lot of problem in terms of execution from his young team that is trying to replace four starters from last season’s Sixth Region runner-up squad.
“I was really proud of our effort,” the veteran coach said. “We talked about consistency before the season and we were inconsistent tonight. Still, if I get that effort every day, we’ll be a good team by the end of the season.
“We have to bring that effort every night,” Stallings added. “I told the girls we were five with minutes to go. The next time we put ourselves in that situation we have to have that belief that we can win that game.”
The free throw shooting was also a reversal from the first game of the season for Bullitt East, but in the wrong direction. The red and gold had converted 18 of 22 in beating Pleasure Ridge Park, but on Friday, the Lady Chargers made just five of 14 tries and were only two of six in the second half.
Bullitt Central ended up getting more shots then the Lady Chargers both at the free throw line and from the field. Bullitt East shot the ball relatively well, making 20 of 45 shots. Bullitt Central was 17 of 49 from the field.
The Lady Cougars were led by Terry with 14 points while fellow senior Keoka Hilliard had 11 points. Juniors Kaitlyn McKnight and Seaera Minyard each added nine points.
Bullitt East once again got a strong game around the basket. Young led all scorers in the game with 17 points and 11 rebounds while Polson finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. Isabel added nine points to the total.
Bullitt Central has had just one senior in each of the last two classes. This year they have a lot more maturity.
“A big deal was that we had four seniors out there tonight,” Bates concluded. “The girls didn’t panic down the stretch. That was big for us.”
The two rivals will meet again on Feb. 4 in Shepherdsville.
At Bullitt East
BULLITT CENTRAL 57 (10-14-13-20) Ashleigh Pollard 2, Kristen Collins 4, Kayla Rigs 3, Keoka Hilliard 11, Kaitlyn McKnight 9, Selena Yunt 5, Valerie Terry 14, Seaera Minyard 9.
BULLITT EAST 50 (13-10-17-10) Emily Fryman 3, Courtney Pfister 1, Nikole Isabel 9, Sable Logsdon 2, Taylor Blain 5, Meredith Polson 13, Lindey Young 17.