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BERNHEIM - Just call it the Civil War of Bullitt County basketball.
More so than any high school rivalry or most of the middle school battles, the girls' showdown between Eastside and Mount Washington Middle Schools hits closer to home.
There is more than just distance involved. For half of the year, the girls from both teams play together in AAU competition that is run under the direction of Mount Washington head coach Christal Scott. In the summer, the two sets of girls separate for the camp circuit to get ready for their respective middle school seasons.
At the end of each AAU season, Scott tells the entire group that the number one goal is to meet again in the Championship Game of the Bullitt County Middle School Tournament.
That finally happened for the first time at the 'A' level last Thursday. Eastside, which was undefeated against the other Bullitt County teams this season, made it from one side of the bracket while Mount Washington needed a one-point victory over Zoneton to get back to the championship game.
The championship meeting was the fifth of the season between the two programs and this time it was the closest game before Eastside held on down the stretch for a 36-31 victory.
The win completed a sweep of the middle school titles for Eastside. Earlier on Thursday, the 'B' team pulled out a victory over Mount Washington.
It was a young Eastside team that won the school's first 'A' title ever. In fact, four of the five starters for the Lady Eagles in the 'A' game were seventh-graders who started in the 'B' game.
The Girls' Middle School Tournament was once again sponsored by Schmid Funeral Home as well as The Awards Center and The Pioneer News.
Eastside head coach Samantha Downs is in her second season at the helm of the Lady Eagles. Downs played basketball for Scott and the Lady Generals.
"I have a lot of respect for coach Scott," Downs said as she watched her players cutting down the net. "Our girls did a good job coming out focused. I couldn't have asked for a better performance."
The game was close throughout, but Eastside had the lead since midway through the second quarter. Mount Washington's last lead was at 11-10. The Lady Eagles then led 17-14 at halftime and it was 25-22 entering the fourth quarter.
Eastside seemed to take control of the game with the first four points of the final frame to take a seven point lead, but Mount Washington rallied with five straight points to pull within 29-27 with just over three minutes remaining in the game.
The momentum then shifted back to Eastside when seventh-grader Rienna Hayes hit two free throws before fell seventh-grader Lindsey Duvall hit a short jumper before later added two free throws.
Mount Washington did score four more points, the last coming on a free throw by Maddie Smith with just under a minute to play, but the Lady Generals would not score again. Duvall's late free throw accounted for the final score.
Despite the team's youth, Downs felt that her 'A' team could get to the final night of the county tourney.
"I think every coach likes to think they have that opportunity," the coach said. "The girls have a lot of heart to get here. It was a nice surprise, but I knew they could do it."
Downs was out for three weeks during the season on maternity leave and the team was in the capable hands of assistant coach Albert Thompson. Both Thompson and Scott are on the coaching staff at Bullitt East.
Duvall led all scorers in the game with 11 points and another seventh-grader, point guard Alyssa Peak tossed in ten points.
Mount Washington got seven points each from eighth-graders Eliza Love, Lauren Perkins and Emily Salyer.
The win moved Eastside to 20-1 for the season. The only loss came to Crosby Middle School in Jefferson County. The Lady Eagles split two games with Crosby.
Before some of the girls move on to compete with Bullitt East during the high school season, Eastside will stay together one more week and compete this coming weekend in the Kentucky State Middle School Tournament in Lexington.
Mount Washington finished the season with a 14-13 record and Scott was pleased that her team had its closest contest yet with Eastside at the end.
"I was very proud of the girls," the long-time Lady General coach said. "I think each time we got closer to them. They laid it all on the line. We just missed some shots. We got the looks we wanted. The shots just didn't go in.
"Our hats are off to Eastside," Scott added. "With the game we played, they had to play well to beat us and they did. They worked hard and are very deserving."
Girls Bullitt County
Middle School Tourney
At Bernheim Middle School
MOUNT WASHINGTON 31 (7-7-8-9) Eliza Love 7, Lauren Perkins 7, Emily Salyer 7, Maddie Smith 4, Raegan Williams 6, Cassie Beaton, Haley Stopher, Gabby Wasson, Amy Gentry, Alissa Glavinos, Selena Spalding, Kelsey Castle, Kathleen Scott, Brooke Taylor, Casey Porter.
EASTSIDE 36 (7-10-8-11) Taylor Owen 6, Alyssa Peak 10, Kirstie Henn 5, Lindsey Duvall 11, Rienna Hayes 2, Amber Higdon 2, Lauren Masden, Brooke Hurley, Taylor Roby, Summer Ball, Shaina Ojala, Laura Brown.