HODGENVILLE - Any port in a storm.
That is the way that both North Bullitt and Bullitt Central looked at Tuesday's meeting in the seventh-place game of the National Guard Holiday Classic at LaRue County High School.
Each of the local teams is struggling mightily this season and the outcomes from the first two days of the eight-team tournament had not improved their outlook. Each team had just one win this season coming into the contest.
In the end, it came down to North Bullitt getting that second win as they survived a late Bullitt Central rally to win 52-51. Just over two weeks earlier, the Cougars had beaten their county rivals 78-60 in Shepherdsville.
There was a lot different between the first two meetings of the season.
"That was the first game that Travis Ridley was back (from football) and had very little practice," North Bullitt head coach Lee Barger said. "With him playing it makes a huge difference in our game. Plus, James Whitfill is playing better."
Ridley finished with a game-high 21 points including four three-pointers. No other Eagle player scored more than seven points. Whitfill pulled down 12 rebounds.
Barger had not been questioning his team's work ethic despite the 1-9 record heading into the tournament showdown.
"That's the one thing I have to say that every game in that tournament the kids were ready to play," the coach said. "There was a lot of intensity and they are working hard to get better. We had been playing better, but we couldn't get over the hump. On Tuesday, we did."
Another big difference in this meeting and just about any other showdown between the two rivals was that this game was played in front of about 100 fans and almost none of them were students. It certainly didn't have the fan intensity of a Friday night meeting back home.
"It was a county game and we were ready," Barger said.
"It was different in that you could coach a kid and he could hear you," the coach added. "That isn't normally the case. We've been struggling at point guard so that helped in that the kids could hear us. That helped us coach."
North Bullitt was able to get an early lead that helped their confidence after the blow-out in the first meeting with the Cougars. The Eagles were up 11-10 at the first break and they had a 24-19 lead at halftime. It was still a five-point North Bullitt edge heading into the fourth quarter.
Bullitt Central rallied down the stretch and the Cougars even took a two-point lead heading into the final minute. At that point, Whitfill nailed a three-pointer that put the Eagles back on top.
The Cougars turned the ball over, but then North Bullitt made a mistake by taking a bad shot before Bullitt Central could even commit a foul. That gave Bullitt Central a final chance, but they misplayed the final seconds and never got off a final shot.
"We had the ball with two seconds to play and we drew up an inbounds play during the time-out," Bullitt Central head coach Joe Pat Lee said. "We got what we wanted and then didn't take the shot. I guess shooting the ball was one thing we forgot to mention during the time-out."
Lee felt his team was ready for this game despite the surroundings.
"The feeling was fine," the veteran coach said. "It's a tournament game.
"We are really struggling right now with guys understanding their roles," Lee added. "We have to have every guy stop whining and complaining about playing time and not buying into what we want to do."
Bullitt Central didn't get as many easy baskets in this game as they had in the first meeting and they didn't control the boards. In the first meeting, Bullitt Central had a huge advantage in front line scoring, but on Tuesday, the Eagles had a 12-10 scoring advantage by their inside players.
Most of Bullitt Central's points came on the perimeter and with three-point shots. Junior T.J. Flener led the Cougars with 19 points as he converted five three-pointers and freshman Caleb Craddock finished with a trio of three-pointers as he finished with 13 points.
The rest of the Cougars combined to score 19 points.
Bullitt Central dropped to 1-9 with the three losses in the tournament.
"We don't shoot it that bad," Lee noted. "On the season we're better in every (statistical) category from last year except turnovers. Our defense is not very good. We give up too many easy baskets."
The two rivals will meet for a third time this season on Jan. 16 at North Bullitt. Because the game came in a tournament and not one of the two regular season meetings, the North Bullitt victory will not count in the seeding-process for the 24th District Tournament at the end of the season.
This was the second time in as many tournaments that North Bullitt faced a member of the 24th District. A week earlier, the Eagles had lost to Southern in the seventh-place game at a tournament in Bardstown.
North Bullitt did learn last week that they will face Trinity in the first round of the Boys' Louisville Invitational Tournament. The Eagles will be one of four invited teams from out in the state (one Bullitt County teams is invited each year with Bullitt Central taking the slot next year).
That first-round meeting will take place next Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at Bellarmine University.
Earlier in the National Guard Holiday Classic, Bullitt Central and North Bullitt each lost a pair of games.
North Bullitt opened with a 64-57 setback to Meade County and then came back two days later and fell to Southwestern 66-55.
Bullitt Central was no match for undefeated LaRue County in the first round as they were beaten 79-49. In the consolation bracket, the Cougars then fell to Metcalf County 67-55.
National Guard Holiday Classic
At LaRue County HS
NORTH BULLITT 52 (11-13-14-14) Travis Ridley 21, James Whitfill 5, Justin Higdon 5, Kenton Aubrey 2, C.J. Parker 7, Matt Mudd 5, Cody Putilar 7.
BULLITT CENTRAL 51 (10-9-14-18) Caleb Craddock 13, T.J. Flener 19, Jason Creason 7, Jeremy Bennett 4, Mike Kean 6, Jesse Vittitoe 2.
BULLITT CENTRAL 49 (14-8-15-12) T.J. Flener 12, Jason Creason 7, Jeremy Bennett 12, Mike Kean 6, Dakota Masden 2, Corey Brown 2, Jason Peercy 2, Travis Stepp 3, Miciah Ocasio 1, Damon Shepherd 2.
LARUE COUNTY 79 (14-20-31-14) Hornback 16, Seymour 11, Bault 11, J. Brewer 12, A. Brewer 9, Sheeran 9, Nall 4, Mullins 3, Parr 2, Meredith 2.
BULLITT CENTRAL 55 (14-18-14-9) Caleb Craddock 1, T.J. Flener 20, Jason Creason 2, Jeremy Bennett 2, Mike Kean 10, Jesse Vittitoe 2, Dakota Masden 2, Travis Stepp 2, Damon Shepherd 14.
METCALF COUNTY 67 (22-18-14-13) Jones 5, Meredith 17, G. Kindred 15, R. Kindred 21, Bell 9.
NORTH BULLITT 57 (16-16-11-14) Brandon Goeing 14, Justin Higdon 10, Travis Ridley 12, James Whitfill 10, Matt Mudd 1, Kenton Aubrey 10.
MEADE COUNTY 64 (4-20-23-17) Garris 4, Bo Wilson 1, T. Wilson 4, Pace 7, Satram 3, Schwartz 4, Brangers 16, Blehard 9, Wells 16.