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SHEPHERDSVILLE – Doing everything in their power to win a big game, the Bullitt Central Cougars rode a 47-point combined scoring effort from seniors Brett Bourland, Zack Humphrey and Jacob Wampler to a 61-59 victory over Fairdale on Wednesday in the first-round of the Sixth Region Tournament on their home court.
The win was the first for Bullitt Central in a Sixth Region Tournament game since the maroon and gray joined the region in the 2005-06 season. It was the first regional win for the Cougars since a victory over South Oldham (82-69) on March 7, 2005, when the program was part of the Eighth Region.
A year later, the Bullitt County schools moved to the Sixth Region. Bullitt Central reached the regional tournament that year, but lost to Doss. That was the last time the program played in a regional tournament game.
Just as importantly, the win on Wednesday set up a meeting on Friday in the Sixth Region semi-finals against Bullitt East in a game at Valley High School. That will mark the first time two Bullitt County teams have ever met at the regional level in a boys’ basketball contest.
It was bedlam in The Big House as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
“Our effort was phenomenal,” Bullitt Central head coach Joe Pat Lee said after shaking the hand of seemingly everyone in the gym. “I’m so proud of my seniors. I’ve been saying all year that players make plays and tonight we had guys stepping up and making plays.”
Bourland led Bullitt Central (19-8) with 19 points and 14 rebounds while Humphrey tallied 15 points, all on three-pointers. Wampler finished with 13 points as he connected on 11 of his 12 free throw attempts, including all eight of his opportunities in the final four minutes of the game.
Wampler, much like he did in the final home game of the regular season when the Cougars beat Thomas Nelson by a single point, was starting out beyond the arc and driving to the basket. Often, he got fouled down the stretch.
Still, Wampler’s biggest drive of the night came with the Cougars clinging to a 52-51 lead with 1:50 left in the game. The senior drove down the right side of the lane but at the last moment passed the ball to Bourland, who got the basket as he was fouled. The senior converted the three-point play.
“I’m used to doing that,” Wampler said on the floor after the win. “I want the ball at the end. I just want to make plays at the end.
“They were expecting me to go all the way,” the senior said of his assist to Bourland. “I passed it off and he made a good play. It was a big play in the game.”
Bullitt Central had trailed 29-22 at halftime, but moved ahead midway through the third quarter before the score was tied at 36-36 entering the fourth quarter.
Wampler scored the first basket of the final frame and then Humphrey nailed the last of his five three-pointers, but Fairdale answered with seven straight points to move ahead 43-41. That was the last lead for the Bulldogs.
Bourland scored the next four points for the Cougars and a free throw by Roy Crable put Bullitt Central ahead for good. Still, it was 52-51 before Wampler and Bourland combined on the three-point play and Fairdale was again within a point at 55-54 when Cory Thomas scored a basket at the 1:07 mark.
The rest of the Bullitt Central points all came at the foul line, where the Cougars were 16 of 21 in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Cameron Dukes hit one of two foul shots as the clock stood at :47.6 and again at :24.9.
It wasn’t over yet. Fairdale's Caleb Longacre hit two foul shots at :17.8 to make it 57-56. Bullitt Central got the ball inbounds and Fairdale did not foul until Wampler was at mid-court at :11.6. The senior then nailed both chances. Fairdale rushed the ball up the court and got the ball to the baseline, but the Cougars knocked the ball loose at that point and Colin Trent grabbed it in the lane.
Trent sealed the win with two foul shots at :03.5. Fairdale (12-19) hit a shot from half-court to account for the final score.
Bullitt Central felt confident about their chances after drawing their former 24th District rivals for the first-round match on Saturday.
“We thought it was a great draw for us,” Lee said of a Fairdale team that had no player over 6-3. “We felt with what they had with them looking at two guys to score (Longacre and Thomas) that we could game plan for that. They are a good team, but we made those two work for their points.”
Longacre finished with 22 points while Thomas had 17, but both players fouled out in the final 30 seconds. No other Fairdale player scored ore than eight points.
For most of the game, Bullitt Central played a triangle and two defense. The Cougars would shift to a box and one defense if Thomas or Longacre were on the bench.
Boys’ Sixth Region Tournament
First-Round at Bullitt Central
FAIRDALE 59 (11-18-7-23) Caleb Longacre 22, Tereik Mason 8, Cory Thomas 17, Raymont Blincoe 2, Ethan Longacre 6, Collie 2, Trae Richardson 2.
BULLITT CENTRAL 61 (13-9-14-25) Caleb Craddock 3, Jacob Wampler 13, Zack Humphrey 15, Brett Bourland 19, Colin Trent 7, Cameron Dukes 3, Roy Crable 1.