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HEBRON ESTATES - After beating arch-rival Bullitt Central 66-63 in double overtime in the championship game of the Sarah Major Barger Holiday Tournament, the North Bullitt Eagles had a 6-2 record and were looking forward to big things over the rest of the 2010-2011 season.
But Santa was not good to the Eagles during the Christmas break. Over the next 15 games, North Bullitt won just four times. While the team did go 3-3 over the last six games of the regular season, the hole in the middle of the season meant another losing campaign for the green and gold.
A 71-70 loss to Southern in the first game of the 24th District Tournament at Bullitt Central left the Eagles with a 13-16 record.
The expectations were not high for this North Bullitt team so the final mark was not a big disappointment. In fact, it was a pretty good season according to head coach Lee Barger.
“It was a good season,” he said last week. It was enjoyable. We did go through a bad stretch in January. That is something that happened last season. If we had played better there, we could have had a much better record.
“It seemed like after our games at Christmas that after that we had zero energy,” Barger said. “For the better part of January it was like that. I thought it sort of broke in February, but it was certainly a problem in January.”
North Bullitt started the season with three straight wins and then won three consecutive games in the Sarah Major Barger Holiday Tournament including the win over Bullitt Central.
I thought early in the season our kids played as well as they could,” Barger said. “In January, it was the opposite. Everything we did well early, we didn’t do in January.”
The team did finish well including a strong performance in the district loss to Southern.
“We played super,” Barger recalled. “The last few weeks or so it wasn’t too bad. The kids played hard then we played as well as we could in the fourth quarter against Southern.
“No regrets,” the coach said of the final game. “The kids played hard and the seniors stepped up for us. Overall, it was a good year for us.”
The Eagles finished the season with seven seniors. Already, Cody Montgomery has signed to play baseball in college and Blake Hardy is expected to do the same thing. Barger doesn’t expect any of the others to play basketball at the next level, but he does think they an all be good college students.
Barger also said that the same malaise seemed to hit his younger teams this season. Both the junior-varsity and freshmen teams started out well, but then hit some rough stretches. The coach said that both teas finished a few games under .500.
The junior-varsity squad lost two players before the season began and then neither Ryan Collins nor Brandon Goeing played with that group as they started for the varsity.
“Several of the kids got substantially better on the junior-varsity,” Barger noted.
There will be a lot of playing time available for the players off the JV and freshmen teams next season.
“We lose a lot of floor experience,” Barger said. “We had a lot of kids play a lot of minutes. This summer will be key for the younger kids to get used to the speed of varsity action.”
Barger and his wife, Traci, are expecting their first child this spring. Other than that, the coach doesn’t expect to change how he handles the team over the summer. Barger has already set his summer youth camp dates for the week of June 6 and the team will leave for camp at Transylvania College on the 11th. The rest of the summer will be filled with some scrimmages.
The Bullitt County teams are going through realignment for next season at both the district and the regional level. Barger said that the Eagles have already dropped Fairdale from the schedule and have already added new district foe Moore as well as games against Shawnee and Green County.
At this point, North Bullitt only has one game scheduled with Bullitt East as Barger does not want to play the Chargers on the first Friday night of the season. The coach would like to play Bullitt East a second time if a date can be found.
North Bullitt will against host the Sarah Major Barger tourney at Christmas and the eight teams are already in place, but the event will not include Bullitt Central. Spencer County, the 2009 champs, will return to the event.
The Eagles’ second tourney next season will have them playing at LaRue County, an event they have been in before.
Still, Barger says that he needs five more games for next season.
Barger feels that with Collins and Goeing being the foundation for next season that the Eagles can work toward a winning mark.
“We need to develop some depth,” the coach concluded. “We’ll be small and play eight or nine kids.”