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North Bullitt muscles past Moore for crown

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Lady Eagles work game plan to perfection to earn back-to-back titles

By Thomas Barr

 HEBRON ESTATES – They crashed the boards. They ran their offensive sets to perfection. And they played tenacious defense.

In the end, the North Bullitt Lady Eagles had the opportunity to celebrate at midcourt as the student body rushed the floor after a 64-55 victory in the championship game of the 23rd District basketball tournament.

Amber Courtney, in her fourth year at the helm of the Lady Eagles, was left smiling with a net draped around her neck.

“I am so proud of these girls,” Courtney said as the team recorded its 20th victory for a second straight season, which also resulted in its second consecutive district title. “We were supposed to win this year. That is a little different pressure than we’ve faced before.”

Facing a very athletic Moore Mustang team which upset Bullitt Central in the semifinals, North Bullitt had a pretty simple game plan – push the tempo, get the ball inside to Kasey McCoy and Caitlin Montgomery and hit the backboards.

“We did exactly what we wanted,” Courtney said. “They couldn’t handle our size inside and we took advantage of it. Our post players have come a long way.”

A vocal home crowd saw the game plan early as McCoy and Montgomery got the ball on almost every possession of the first quarter. The post players scored the first eight points for the Lady Eagles, who advance to the Sixth Region tournament, which begins today at Bellarmine University.

But it took a three-pointer from Katie Downey off the bench to take an 11-9 lead with 4:35 left in the opening quarter. After Amber Johnson scored on a three-point play, Montgomery scored the next five points to give North Bullitt a 16-12 lead, which they would never relinquish.

Savannah Morrison, who led the Lady Eagles with 15 points, orchestrated the offense and Courtney said she saw a lot more maturity from her junior guard and the rest of the squad.

“Savannah played so well tonight. She was under control and really directed the offense,” said Courtney.

She also heaped praise on Downey, who may have had her best all-around game of the season. Not only did she tie Montgomery with 14 points, Courtney was pleased with her energy on defense and her shot selection on offense.

“She’s only a freshman but she has played three years for us,” said Courtney. “Tonight, she played a very complete ball game.”

Leading 39-26 at intermission, Courtney said she couldn’t have been more pleased with the team’s performance.

“With the exception of a couple of possessions, we did exactly what we wanted,” said Courtney. “We got the tempo up and our post players got the ball inside. Then, we controlled the rebounding. “

Having seen Moore beat the Lady Cougars several times on backdoor cuts along the baseline in the semifinals, Courtney said that scared her. But it also gave the coaching staff a point of emphasis in practice on Thursday.

“I don’t think they beat us one time tonight on that,” said Courtney. “Moore is a much improved team and we told the girls that we had to come out to play because anyone can get beat.”

Calling it a Focus Friday, Courtney preached the need to take care of business.

The players were to report to the gym 90 minutes early and each player was asked to focus on doing what they do best.

In the second half, North Bullitt slowed the tempo and ran its motion offense. At the end of most possessions, the Lady Eagles got what they wanted – a player cutting to the basket for a layup.

With the lead ballooning to 20 with 3:31 left in the game, Courtney had the opportunity to get every player into the game.

Looking at the scoreboard as the lead shrank to the final nine-point margin, Courtney said she was confident her reserves would hold the lead. Plus, she said they were a key part of the season’s success and deserved an opportunity to be on the floor.

When the final horn sounded, the party was on. North Bullitt students flooded the floor.

“It was a great atmosphere for a girls’ game,” said Courtney. “Our students were great tonight. They really came out to support our team.”

Courtney, whose team will take a 20-11 record into the regional tournament, was pleased but she knows there is more to come.

“We played well and I am pleased,” said Courtney. “But I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball of the season yet. We can still play better.”

Local players on the All-District tournament team included Kayla Riggs of Bullitt Central and Savannah Morrison, Katie Downey and Caitlin Montgomery from North Bullitt.

At North Bullitt

NORTH BULLITT (27-12-16-9) 64 – Savannah Morrison 15, Caitlin Montgomery 14, Katie Downey 14, Kasey McCoy 9, Rachel Badgett 7, Reba Stice 3, Maria George 2

Moore (16-10-15-14) 55 – Amber Johnson 22, Elizabeth Horsman 11, Ashley Adkins 11, Aerial McKay 4, Precious Hereford 3, Kristin Longaker 2, Dayshea White 2