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Perfect game, imperfect finish for Chargers

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2010 Boys' Louisville Invitational Tournament

By Mike Farner

LOUISVILLE - The final 16 seconds ruined what could have been a signature victory for the Bullitt East Chargers on Tuesday in an opening round game of the Boys’ Louisville Invitational Tournament at Bellarmine University.

Instead, it was bitter heartbreak for the Chargers as they watched Pleasure Ridge Park celebrate a 55-54 victory that saw the Panthers score eight points in the closing 16 seconds.

After trailing by as many as 14 points in the first half, the Chargers had played marvelously over the final three quarters against the top-rated team in the Sixth Region. Bullitt East took its biggest lead of the game when junior Corey Washburn made the second of two foul shots to put the red and gold ahead 52-47 with just 16 seconds remaining.

But the contest was just getting started. Bullitt East had called its final time-out after Washburn’s free throw and head coach Troy Barr had planned to change to a man-to-man defense. Instead, the players talked him into staying in a zone.

Pleasure Ridge Park quickly attacked that, getting a three-pointer from Jacob Simpson and calling a time-out at :10.3. Bullitt East then struggled to get the ball thrown in and the pass was intercepted by Jamal Stephenson who passed to Chad McDowell for a basket and a foul at :08.3. McDowell then completed the three point play to put the Panthers up 53-52.

This time coming out of the time-out, Bullitt East got the ball inbounds to freshman point guard Trey Rakes who for some reason was quickly fouled by Simpson 85-feet away from the basket. Rakes calmly stepped to the line and hit both foul shots to give his team the lead at :07.2.

Pleasure Ridge Park had one final chance. McDowell pushed the ball up the court and darted to the free throw circle but his shot bounced off the left side of the rim. Simpson, just a moment before the goat, became the hero for his team with the tip-in just before the buzzer.

This might not have been the toughest loss ever for Bullitt East in eight seasons under head coach Troy Barr, but it was close to that level.

“We lost a district championship on a 50-footer so that was tougher,” the veteran coach said after finally emerging from the locker room after the game. “But this one ranks right up there.

“This one hurts,” the coach added. “This one really hurts. You just have to take it and move on.”

While the final basket is one of those things that happens in sports, it was harder for the Bullitt East fan base to accept the open three-point shot that Simpson made as well as the turnover off the inbounds pass.

“We ran the same out of bounds play that we have run all year and been successful with,” Barr pointed out. “I might not have used that last time-out after Corey’s free throw. Plus we gave up the three and that put us in a bad spot.”

Bullitt East trailed 17-3 seven minutes into the game, but then rallied to lead 25-24 at halftime. It was tight the rest of the way.

“I feel for the kids,” the coach said. “We started terribly. We had some very young kids and they were shell-shocked (from the surroundings, the first time a BE boys’ team had ever played at Bellarmine). Then when we realized it was just a ball game we played pretty well.”

Bullitt East started two freshmen in this game and as it turned out, the five starters were the only players to score for the Chargers.

Washburn had one of his best games of the season with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Fellow junior Hayden Sweat also had 18 points while freshman Rusty Troutman made a trio of three-pointes en route to scoring 14 points.

“That’s a solid night,” Barr said as he looked at Washburn’s stat line. “If we can get that from him every night we’ll be in good shape.”

Bullitt East had a 36-27 edge in rebounding, but PRP scored 20 points from the bench players to zero for the Chargers. The Chargers also had five more rebounds.

Pleasure Ridge Park, which lost on Friday to top-ranked Ballard in the quarter-finals, had 14 points by Jaquail Fowler and 11 by Simpson.

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Louisville Invitational Tournament at Bellarmine

First-Round

BULLITT EAST 54 (5-20-8-21) Trey Rakes 2, Rusty Troutman 14, Hayden Sweat 18, Chase Troutman 2, Corey Washburn 18.

PLEASURE RIDGE PARK 55 (17-7-11-20) Simpson 11, Dak 2, Carter 8, Fowler 14, Yochum 3, McDowell 9, Stephenson 8.