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FERN CREEK – The Bullitt East Lady Chargers did a lot of good things on Thursday in the championship game of the Girls’ 24th District Tournament as they battled against Mercy, the state’s fifth-ranked team.
The one thing the red and gold could not do was put the ball in the basket. Bullitt East shot just 25 percent from the field and lost to the Jaguars 54-43.
It was the second consecutive year that Bullitt East (23-7) lost to Mercy in the district final.
Still, both teams advance to this week’s Sixth Region Tournament that will start Monday at Bellarmine University and then move to Valley High School for the semi-finals and final. A rematch on Tuesday, March 5, in the championship game is not out of the question.
“I’m proud of the way our kids came to play,” Bullitt East head coach Chris Stallings said after meeting with his team. “We competed for four quarters.
“After that first game you can talk about flashing back and thinking we can beat them,” the coach said. “Now, we have a strong belief we can get them. That’s a good thing.”
This was a bruising battle in which neither team backed down from physical play. The contest had 52 fouls and the two teams combined to attempt 67 foul shots.
Mercy (17-10) had gotten the better of Bullitt East 76-45 back on Jan. 8 in Mount Washington, but this was a much better performance for the Lady Chargers who will enter regional play with an 11-2 mark since that loss to the Jaguars.
On Thursday, Bullitt East appeared poised to pull off the upset when they narrowed the gap to 30-27 late in the third quarter on a drive into the lane by senior Taylor Williamson and then to within 37-35 on Emily Fryman’s three-pointer with over five minutes remaining.
Mercy scored the next three points, but with 4:34 remaining, Mackenzie Bass converted two free throws that made it 40-37. After both teams squandered some chances, Mercy senior guard Kayla Richardson got free in the corner and drained a three-pointer.
That would be the last basket of the game for the Jaguars. Down the stretch, Mercy kept the ball in the hands of Richardson and Sixth Region Player of the Year Whitney Hartlage. Those two scored the final 11 points of the game for Mercy at the free throw line.
“Richardson’s three was pretty big,” Stallings admitted. “We doubled Hartlage and wanted it out of her hands. Then that was huge. That was a big make for them.”
In fact, the two senior Mercy guards controlled the game. The two combined to score 40 points for the Jaguars with Hartlage finishing with 25 points. After those two, Mercy did not have another player score more than six points.
Bullitt East got off to a horrible start, but their defense kept the red and gold close. The Lady Chargers did not score until Sara Stevens hit a 15-foot jumper at the 2:50 mark of the first quarter. At the first stop, Mercy was up 13-3.
The Lady Chargers finally got things going in the second quarter and were within 17-14 when sophomore center Kylee Willis went down with a sprained ankle with 2:06 remaining in the half. Mercy hit four free throws from that point to lead 21-14 at halftime.
The poor shooting for Bullitt East continued in the third quarter, but they still managed to get close with good defense. A three-pointer by Duvall led to Williamson’s only basket that made it 30-27 before Mercy scored the last five points of the third period.
Duvall hit another three-pointer and Bass added a basket to start the final frame and after Mercy’s Mackenzie Stovall scored, Fryman nailed a three-pointer that got Bullitt East as close as they would get at 37-35.
“We felt like we took everything they had and they took what we had,” Stallings said. “It was a good girls’ high school game.”
Duvall paced Bullitt East with 14 points and Bass also came off the bench to score eight points. Taylor Blain, who had eight points in the second quarter, finished with nine points for the game.
At Fern Creek HS
BULLITT EAST 43 (3-11-13-16) Emily Fryman 4, Lindsay Duvall 14, Kaleigh Sharpe 2, Cady Cornell 2, Taylor Williamson 2, Taylor Blain 9, Mackenzie Bass 8, Sara Stevens 2.
MERCY 54 (13-8-14-19) Morgan Doherty 1, Mackenzie Stovall 6, Whitney Hartlage 25, Hannah Bewley 2, Kayla Richardson 15, Malerie Martin 2, Mackenzie Stilger 3.
Never safe, never worried.
That was pretty much the first-round game for the Bullitt East Chargers on Tuesday in the semi-finals of the 24th District Tournament at Fern Creek High School.
The Lady Chargers scored the first nine points against Jeffersontown and they would never trail in the game. On the other hand, the other Lady Chargers were still within nine points at halftime and late in the third quarter Jeffersontown pulled within seven points at 43-36.
Still, Bullitt East never seemed to be in trouble. The red and gold had a nine-point lead entering the fourth quarter and then pulled away for a 67-50 win to advance to Thursday’s championship contest against Mercy.
Bullitt East head coach Chris Stallings thought his team repulsed a strong outing by Jeffersontown, a team that the red and gold had beaten 80-54 in early January.
“We couldn’t shake them,” the veteran coach said after meeting with his team after the win. “The (Alyx) White girl had a good game and (Daphene) Brown played well against us the first time. We couldn’t get them running up and down the floor.”
Bullitt East wanted to press Jeffersontown and also double-team Brown if she got the ball. The first part worked early in the game and the Lady Chargers held Brown to just 10 points with eight of those coming in the second half.
“We tried to double her,” Stallings said. “That was the game plan to double down on her. She’s hard to guard in the high post. She has a nice jumper.”
It was four straight points by Brown late in the third quarter that pulled Jeffersontown within seven points. Bullitt East answered with back-to-back baskets by Mackenzie Bass and Lindsay Duvall to put out the rally. By the first few minutes of the fourth quarter the Lady Chargers had a lead that never dropped below double-digits.
“I’m proud of our girls,” Stallings said. “It’s another district final. They have done a good job to get to this point.”
It was another balanced scoring attack for the Lady Chargers. Duvall came off the bench to score 14 points while Courtney Pfister and Kylee Willis each had 12 points. Willis had a double-double with 11 rebounds as the Lady Chargers had a 40-20 rebounding edge.
White led Jeffersontown (9-18) with 18 points while Brown had 10 points. The Lady Chargers dressed only eight players for the game and only used six of those players.
At Fern Creek HS
JEFFERSONTOWN 50 (7-14-17-12) Calderon 9, White 18, Ross 5, Brown 10, Martin 8.
BULLITT EAST 67 (17-13-17-20) Taylor Blair 3, Courtney Pfister 12, Lindsay Duvall 14, Kaleigh Sharpe 2, Alyssa Peak 2, Cady Cornell 5, Taylor Blain 8, Mackenzie Bass 9, Kylee Willis 12.