Regional shifts seem to work just fine for Bullitt East hoops

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By Mike Farner

  LOUISVILLE - Maybe Bullitt East ought to change regions every year.

Heading out of the Sixth Region this summer, the Bullitt East Chargers on Monday won the program’s first, and presumably their only Sixth Region, boys’ basketball title with the 81-58 victory over Pleasure Ridge Park. It was a glorious event.

Six years ago, Bullitt East was well aware that they were done in the Eighth Region and were going to be in the Sixth Region beginning the following season. The Chargers went out and stunned top-5 Scott County for the Eighth Region title - the first for the boys’ program.

When I pointed out the irony to Bullitt East head coach Troy Barr back when news of the shift became official last month, he just smiled and said, “I like the way you think.” He also wanted that kept hushed until after the 2011 event to keep any added pressure or expectations off his team.

Bullitt East will now be in the Seventh Region starting next season for at least two years. There is a very good chance that the school will be moved out of Jefferson County at that time, to either the Fifth or the Eighth Region. (Oh man, please let that be the case).

If that is the case, Bullitt East will be in the same situation in 2013. That would be a season in which Derek Willis, Rusty Troutman, Trey Rakes and the rest of the players from the undefeated freshman team a year ago will be seniors.

I like that irony.

A second bit of irony along the same lines is that Bullitt East played in the exact same three tournaments this season that they did in 2005 - the King of the Bluegrass, the Ashland Invitational and the Louisville Invitational Tournament.

The results were not all the same, but the Chargers played the same level of competition. Both teams did well in the King of the Bluegrass. The 2005 team (in the 2004 tournament actually) went 3-1 and finished third while this season the Chargers were 2-2. The 2011 Chargers did not do as well in the Ashland event, but then did better in the LIT, winning two games including the victory over then top-ranked Jeffersontown.

In fact, since losing to Eastern in the semi-finals of the LIT, Bullitt East has not lost. The Chargers are presently riding a 15 game winning streak.

It was good to see a number of the 2005 team members at Bellarmine on Monday to cheer on the 2011 squad.

Who wants to bet that Barr is already making his team’s reservations for those two holiday events in at least 2013 if not next season also. The LIT you have to earn your way into, but no doubt the Chargers will be a top-12 team in the two Jefferson County regions the next two seasons.

To be honest, with the talent the team will have the next two seasons, along with the ‘high-major’ college interest that Willis is attracting, you can bet that tournaments will be chasing Barr to get the Chargers in their events for the next two seasons. The coach won’t have to do any hard selling on his team’s ability.

Another aspect that is eerily similar between the two teams is that in both seasons, Barr dwindled his player rotation down to basically five as the season wore on. Yes, the coach went to his bench at times, but the five starters played a lot of minutes.

One hugely big difference between the 2005 and the 2011 Bullitt East teams is the age situation. The 2005 team was pretty much all seniors and then sophomore Robert Troutman came off the bench. This year’s team has the two top seniors in Hayden Sweat and Corey Washburn, but the other three starters are sophomores and the first two players off the bench are juniors.

The 2005 team went 25-8 and reached the state tournament, but then the next year the Chargers only finished 14-13 and did not get out of district play. The 2011 team has already won a school record 28 games against five defeats, but they should be a state power a year from now.

‘Rebuilding’ is not really a word you are going to be hearing with the Bullitt East Chargers for the next several years.