SHEPHERDSVILLE - Give the first salvo of what could be numerous meetings over the next two months to the North Bullitt Eagles in their annual give-and-take with arch-rival Bullitt Central.
The Eagles overcame a late Cougar run on Wednesday to capture the championship of their own Sarah Major Barger Memorial Tournament. North Bullitt trailed for less than two of the 40 minutes in the double overtime contest before pulling out a 68-64 victory.
Bullitt Central forced the game into overtime when Ryan Schnellenberger connected on a three-pointer that just barely beat the buzzer. In fact, Bullitt Central did not lead in the game until the second overtime and then twice led by a single point.
After trailing 63-62, North Bullitt took the lead for good when junior Ryan Collins got free under the basket for a lay-up with less than 90 seconds remaining in the second extra period. North Bullitt then pulled away with single free throws from Collins and Blake Hardy to make it 66-63.
Bullitt Central’s final chance ended when Schnellenberger’s three-point bounced off the front of the rim with 12 seconds to play. Marcell Hull then hit one of two free throws to give the Eagles a four-point margin. Bullitt Central did get one free throw from Caleb Craddock at :09.6 but then North Bullitt put it out of reach with a free throw at :08.1 by Hardy.
“The kids never lost confidence,” North Bullitt head coach Lee Barger said of his team winning the event named in honor of his mother. The proceeds benefit the Sarah Major Barger Scholarship Fund at North Bullitt.
“This was the type game we lost in the past,” the coach said. “This one we won. I can’t tell you how proud I am of our kids for staying with it and pulling this one out.”
For most of the contest it didn’t look like North Bullitt would be pushed to win the second annual tourney. The Eagles scored the first ten points of the game and didn’t allow Bullitt Central to score until Schnellenberger got a basket at the 1:51 mark of the first quarter.
At one point early in the second quarter, North Bullitt pushed the margin to 23-7 before Bullitt Central finally found some consistency. Still, North Bullitt was up 28-21 heading into halftime.
Bullitt Central made a run that got them to within 35-32 late in the third quarter, but North Bullitt was up 41-34 when Cougar junior point guard Caleb Craddock put his team on his back. Craddock scored the next 14 Bullitt Central points and his three-pointer with a minute to play pulled the maroon and gray within 51-48.
Marcel Hull answered that surge with two free throws, but then Schnellenberger nailed a three-pointer with 21 seconds to play to make it 53-51. Bullitt Central fouled Tony Majors at :16.8 and the senior hit one of the two shots.
Craddock had the ball in his hands to start the final push, but a deflected pass went out of bounds at :06.8. Without calling a time-out, Bullitt Central ran a play for Schnellenberger who dribbled around a screen and drilled the three-pointer as the horn sounded.
North Bullitt scored the first three points of the first overtime at the foul line before Schnellenberger hit another three-pointer, his fourth of the game. Collins then scored for North Bullitt before Schnellenberger hit two free throws to make it 59-59.
Bullitt Central had the last shot in this overtime, but a three-pointer was short and the tip-in came just after the buzzer sounded.
In the second extra period, Collins hit a free throw for North Bullitt and when Damon Shepherd connected on two free throws at the 2:25 mark, the Cougars had the lead for the first time in the game. Hull answered with a drive to the basket and then Craddock put the Cougars ahead again. North Bullitt then regained the lead for good when Collins drove under the basket and scored on a reverse lay-up.
That set up the final minute of the game that was decided at the foul line.
Bullitt Central head coach Joe Pat Lee felt that his team lost the game early, not late.
“We’re struggling right now with listening,” the veteran coach said. “The kids are playing hard, but the defense is really bad. We’re not breaking down (defensively) like we should because we do not listen.”
Bullitt Central missed 14 free throws in this game (20 of 34) while North Bullitt had just five misses (8 of 13).
“It is always about shooting with us,” Lee said. “Shooting has been a struggle for us. We did a nice job of coming back. We got down because we didn’t listen and didn’t follow the game plan.”
Amazingly, the five starters for each team scored all but four points in the game.
Craddock was the top scorer with 26 points while Schnellenberger finished with 20 for the Cougars. Shepherd helped out with 11 points.
Collins was a terror around the basket and finished with 24 points for the Eagles. North Bullitt also got 18 points from Geoing who hit four three-pointers along with 14 points from Hill and 10 from Majors.
The two rivals will meet at least twice more this season. The two squads will meet at North Bullitt on Jan. 14 and then battle in Shepherdsville on Feb. 11.
Sarah Major Barger
At North Bullitt
BULLITT CENTRAL 64 (7-14-11-22-5-5) Caleb Craddock 26, Damon Shepherd 11, Ryan Schnellenberger 20, Luke Whitmore 2, Corey Smith 4.
NORTH BULLITT 68 (15-13-8-18-5-9) Tony Majors 10, Brandon Goeing 18, Blake Hardy 2, Ryan Collins 24, Marcel Hull 14.