Shepherd’s late points lift Central to a 54-50 victory

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Boys' Basketball

By Mike Farner

 HEBRON ESTATES - Four free throws in the final 13 seconds by junior Damon Shepherd proved to be the different on Friday as the Bullitt Central Cougars pulled out a 54-50 victory over the North Bullitt Eagles.


Shepherd, who has struggled with his shooting for much of the season, showed no signs of nerves standing in front of the 1,500 fans for the late free throws. Bullitt Central converted all six of its free throw chances in the fourth quarter and were 11 of 13 for the game.

The win was a key one for the Cougars as it gave them a 2-1 mark in the standings used to seed the upcoming 24th District Tournament. It is highly unlikely now that Bullitt Central will have to play the extra game on the first night of the tournament, something they have done the past five seasons in the five-team district.

Normally, the second game in the intra-county series is used for the seeding process, but a scheduling switch that had the team meeting in December, forced the first game to be used this one time. The two teams will meet again on Feb. 11 in Shepherdsville.

Still, this was the second meeting this season between the two rivals. They have met back before Christmas in the championship game of the Sarah Major Barger Tournament on the same court. North Bullitt won that game in overtime.

An overtime certainly appeared possible throughout this game. The teams were tied at 28-28 at halftime and Bullitt Central only had a 40-38 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Over the final eight minutes, the two teams were never separated by more than four points and the game was tied five times.

One of the keys in the fourth quarter was that North Bullitt was never able to get the lead. Bullitt Central scored each time the game was tied.

The final tie came with 40 seconds to play when North Bullitt’s Marcel Hull drove into the lane for a short jumper that knotted the score at 50-50. Bullitt Central then threw the ball out of bounds with 28 seconds to play. On the inbounds pass at mid-court the ball was knocked loose. There was a scramble for the ball before Bullitt Central’s Ryan Schnellenberger got control of the loose ball and headed for the basket.

Just inside the arc, Schnellenberger passed the ball to Shepherd streaking to the basket on the right side. Shepherd went up for the lay-up and was fouled as the shot spun out. The junior stepped to the foul line and calmly sank both tries.

North Bullitt then got the ball into the hands of its leading scorer, Brandon Goeing. The junior started to drive for the basket but was fouled near the three throw line at :06.2. The Eagles were only in the bonus and Goeing’s first shot rolled off and was rebounded by Schnellenberger who was quickly fouled. That was only the sixth foul on the Eagles, but they then sent Shepherd to the line when he was fouled on the inbounds play at :03.6.

Shepherd repeated his earlier success and canned both free throws for the final margin.

“We made some big free throws,” Bullitt Central head coach Joe Pat Lee said. “Going six-for-six late was huge. That’s good mental toughness.”

Bullitt Central had eight point leads in both the first and second halves, but couldn’t maintain the edge.

“Every time we can get a lead we think it time to relax instead of kill time,” Lee said. “We relax for some reason. We need the knock-out.”

North Bullitt head coach Lee Barger only had one time-out remaining and opted not to use it when Shepherd stepped to the line the first time.

“He really did a good job and hit the free throws,” the Eagle coach said. “It’s hard to step up and hit those free throws. Shepherd will always remember this game.”

Goeing is the Eagles’ top free throw shooter at 82 percent and the late miss was his only missed free throw in the game.

“That play didn’t beat us,” Barger said.

“I think there was a big difference in the two games,” the North Bullitt coach said. “I think that Schnellenberger and (Corey) Smith and (Luke) Whitmore, those three guys won the rebounding war. Those guys really won the game for them.”

Bullitt Central got 16 points from Caleb Craddock along with 12 from Schnellenberger. Both Shepherd and Michia Ocasio had ten points for the Cougars.

Goeing was the top scorer for the Eagles with 16 while Ryan Collins finished with 15 points and Hull had 14.


At North Bullitt

BULLITT CENTRAL 54 (20-8-12-14) Miciah Ocasio 10, Caleb Craddock 16, Damon Shepherd 10, Corey Smith 4, Ryan Schnellenberger 12, Luke Whitmore 2.

NORTH BULLITT 50 (12-16-10-12) Tony Majors 1, Brandon Goeing 16, Blake Hardy 2, Ryan Collins 15, Marcel Hull 14, Cody Montgomery 2.