Season that ended too early was memorable

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2009-2010 Hoops Season Review

By Mike Farner

    MOUNT WASHINGTON - Only one girls’ basketball team in Kentucky felt that the 2009-10 season ended on a positive note. Unfortunately, that team was not the Bullitt East Lady Chargers despite an impressive 27-4 record.

    Still, given a little time to assess the complete package following the 48-43 loss to Butler in the championship game of the Sixth Region Tournament, veteran Bullitt East head coach Chris Stallings could grasp the success that the program had this past season.

    From day one, Stallings made it a point to say that success in the regular season was not high on the list of goals for the Lady Chargers this winter. The team came into the season with goals of post-season success and even making a run at a state championship.

    The success was expected. Bullitt East started the season ranked 12th in the state and they were among the top-20 teams in the state all season. It all just came to a premature end in the loss to Butler, a team that the red and gold had defeated earlier in the season.

    “I think it is very important not to let our last game take away from how positive our year was,” Stallings said a week after returning from the Girls’ Kentucky State Tournament. It definitely did not end the way we wanted it to. But, we did a lot of good things throughout the year.”

    Stallings even admitted to taking the time to watch the video of the Butler game, a contest in which the Lady Chargers made an impressive late run to move ahead 43-43 before watching Butler score the last six points of the contest.

    The coach did admit that it added a little to the frustration of the last game to sit in Bowling Green and watch Mercy win the state championship. Bullitt East split a pair of games with the Jaguars including a 60-59 victory in the Shoot for the Cure showcase game at Cardinal Arena on Jan. 9.

    “We felt we could be there and competing for a state title once we got there,” Stallings said of sitting in the stands and watching the tournament. “Like I told our girls, I would rather strive for that and fail, than not making it one of our goals.”

    Night in and night out, Bullitt East was one of the state’s best defensive teams. Against a powerful schedule, the Lady Chargers gave up just 39 points a game.

    The teams’ Achilles’ heel was inconsistent play on offense. While Bullitt East ended up averaging 55.5 points a game, there were two important games in which the team scored just 28 and 27 points. In half of the last 12 games of the season, the red and gold failed to score more than 50 points.

    “Looking back on the year, we were pretty consistent night in and night out,” Stallings said of the overall effort. “We were ready to play. Some of the things that bothered us offensively in our last game, those were things that happened all year in different games.”

    The lack of offensive punch was not only a game problem. Stallings pointed out that there were long stretches in practices where the team could not put the ball in the basket.

    “We worked on offense every day in practice,” the coach pointed out. “It’s not that we didn’t constantly work on it, but that was just the make up of our team.”

    For the season, the Lady Chargers made just 27 percent of their three-point attempts. Overall, the shooting was a pretty solid 44 percent. The free throw shooting percentage was strong including a school record 83 percent mark from sophomore Nikole Isabel.

    “We were better offensively than a year ago,” Stallings said. “But it needed to be better.”

    The Lady Chargers were a hard team to guard because everyone could contribute. The final stats showed seven players scoring over 100 points for the team this season and four of those players had over 200 points.

    “We were very balanced and that was a key to our success,” Stallings said. “Night in and night out we were ready to play.”

    Bullitt East had five seniors on the roster and all five had been in the program for five years. Each of the five had been on the varsity roster for three years while some had played all five with the top squad.

    The team’s leading scorer this season was Kayla Thacker and she has committed to play at Northern Kentucky University. In fact, all five of the Lady Chargers seniors should be on scholarship to some college in some sport next season.

    Already, senior Jade Troutman has signed with Indiana University-Southeast to play volleyball. It is also appears that senior Jackie Stevens, the defending state champion in the discus and shot put, will compete in that sport next season at the college level.

    For the other seniors, Shelby Romine and Samantha Johnson, Stallings is positive that they will make a college decision soon that will include basketball.

    The Lady Chargers did have some injuries this season, especially after Christmas and that meant that a number of the younger players only saw limited time with the junior-varsity because they were needed for the varsity. That younger team posted a 9-9 record.

    The Bullitt East freshman team posted a 15-9 mark. That group included a number of eighth-graders who are part of a very strong group.

    Because of the depth that the Lady Chargers had this season, the program will return quite a bit of experience in five players - juniors Jessica Philpott, Lindey Young, Meredith Polson and Whitney Stansbury along with Isabel, a sophomore. After that group, there will be plenty of opportunity for playing time and varsity roster spots.

    “It will be nice to have a point guard back with experience (Philpott) and post players back (Young and Polson),” the coach said. “Those are nice building blocks.

    “We have five kids coming back with quite a bit of experience,” Stallings added. “After those five it could be anyone. It’s exciting in a way. We have a lot of work ahead of us. That hasn’t bothered us in the past. Our kids have put the time in for us to be successful.”

    The expectations will not change that much for the future.

    “We want to compete for district and regional titles,” Stallings said. “We want to do that every year. That won’t change. It will just depend on who we find and how many we find to back up those five.”

    This spring, there will be no shortage of basketball for the Lady Charger program. First, Thacker and Troutman have been invited to the try-outs for the Kentucky All-Star team that will take on Indiana’s best in June. Stallings will be the assistant coach for the Kentucky All-Stars.

    The returning players will work in the weight room and take part in open gyms. A number of the younger players are competing with AAU teams this spring.

    It will be a busy June for the program. Stallings and former head coach Jerry Troutman will conduct their annual youth camp the week of June 14 and the following week will see the return of the Bullitt East Summer Shoot-Out.

    Stallings has most of next year’s schedule done. The two holiday tournaments will be the Berea Invitational before Christmas and the Lady Invitational of the South after the holiday. The team will also compete in the Coaches vs. Cancer event as well as taking part in the Bullitt County Challenge that will be hosted by North Bullitt.