OKOLONA - Lee Barger hasn’t had a lot of reasons to smile during the first half of the basketball season.
However, the past week brought a little joy to the coach’s heart. And the North Bullitt boys’ coach couldn’t stop smiling Friday evening after his Eagles defeated the Southern Trojans 56-48.
Searching for a playing rotation after having as many as 15 players seeing action early in the season, Barger has found the key - toughness.
“They brought that to the floor,” Barger said of the tough play. “The guys who are playing tough in practice will be playing in the game.”
Facing the district leading Trojans, North Bullitt was soundly beaten at home earlier in the season by the Preston Highway neighbors to the north.
On Friday, it was North Bullitt’s turn to savor the victory.
“It may have been my best upset win,” said Barger.
To demonstrate toughness, sophomore Tony Majors played almost the entire game with his head literally stapled together. In practice, Majors ran into the much larger Ivan Tischendorf and suffered a gash. He would play in the JV game, refusing to go to the hospital. After the game, he got four staples to close the gash.
On Friday, with the injury bandaged, Majors played his best game as the point game, said Barger.
“That’s the kind of toughness we need,” said Barger.
North Bullitt also got a career night from senior Justin Higdon, who has 25 points and 19 rebounds.
“I was just feeling it,” said Higdon. “The entire team played so well tonight. It was a great team effort.”
For whatever reason, Higdon said the team is starting to come together at just the right time.
“Things are just coming together and we’re playing much better,” said Higdon.
Barger said it is the leadership shown by the players that is making a difference. The halftime speech on Friday was not given by the coaches but by the players.
With Southern wanting to get out and run, Barger said it was a key to slow the game down and play good defense.
Although the home team jumped out to an early lead, North Bullitt kept its composure and battled back to take a halftime lead.
During the second period, Higdon scored nine of his 25 points. Travis Ridley’s three-pointer at the 1:38 mark of the second quarter gave North Bullitt its first lead at 22-21.
Brandon Goeing’s three-pointer off the bench with a second left in the half gave North Bullitt a 27-26 lead.
Working its clock control offense to perfection, North Bullitt withstood several Southern runs in the third quarter.
Apparently looking for a spark, the five Southern starters were sent to the bench midway in the quarter, down by three points.
Once again North Bullitt got a big three-pointer at the end of the quarter to take the lead. This time, Ridley hit one of his three for the game as the Eagles led 41-38.
Trojan star Chris Richard hit a pair of free throws to cut the margin to 1 but that would as close as Southern would come.
Higdon hit a pair of three-pointers and Ridley hit a pair of charity tosses to give the visitors a 49-43 lead midway through the quarter.
As Southern was cold from the field, North Bullitt controlled the backboards against its taller opponents. Southern went over three minutes without a field goal.
“Every kid did their role tonight,” said Barger, whose team is now 4-17 on the season. “The kids are finally doing what we’ve been saying all season.”
NORTH BULLITT - (10-17-14-15) 56 - Justin Higdon 25, Travis Ridley 14, Tony Majors 10, Brandon Goeing 3, Cody Montgomery 2, Ivan Tischendorf 2
At Southern - (15-11-12-10) 48 - Chris Richard 12, Darron Bell 10, Brandon Williams 7, Michael Parker 7, Quayshaun Hamilton 6, Maurice Thomas 2, Reggie Young 2, Larry Martin 2