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Chargers’ big finish comes up short

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Class Act Boys’ Sixth Region Basketball Final

By Mike Farner

 SHIVELY – Bullitt East’s sizzling late season run came up a win short of the promised land on Saturday as the Chargers’ lost in the championship game of the Boys’ Sixth Region Tournament to Butler 52-48.

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It was the first time since 2016 that Bullitt East reached the regional final. In that year, the Chargers lost to Doss by four points. The red and gold have not won a regional title since 2012.

This was the rubber match between the Chargers and the Bears and all three went down to the final few moments. Butler won the first game back in December by a 57-51 count in Mount Washington. Bullitt East returned the favor a month later, beating the top-seeded Bears 50-49 in the opening round of the Boys’ Louisville Invitational Tournament erasing a 10-point deficit in the final three minutes.

At the three-minute mark on Saturday, Bullitt East trailed 49-41. The Charger rally started with a free throw by Josiah Morris and after Butler missed two free throws and then fouled on the rebound, Rece Watson connected on a pair of free throws. At 2:15, Ethan Boyer connected on a free throw. Bullitt East quickly forced a turnover and Thomas Wiseheart hit a free throw at 1:59 that made it a three-point contest.

Butler continued to struggle at the free throw line, missing the front end of the bonus at 1:29. After a time-out, Bullitt East made a bad pass and Butler appeared to have a run out, but the Chargers closed the gap and blocked the lay-up off the shooter and had the ball back.

With a size advantage inside, Bullitt East worked the ball in the post to the 6-5 Watson, but his shot was too strong. On the weak side, Morris grabbed the rebound and scored at :25.1 to pull the red and gold within a point.

After the Morris basket, head coach Jason Couch called a time-out, the last for the Chargers. Unfortunately, there was some miscommunication. All five Bullitt East players were in the backcourt to pressure Butler. The Bears broke Cameron Underwood long and he was behind the Bullitt East defense when he caught the inbounds pass and dribbled in for a dunk.

Bullitt East hustled the ball up the floor, but the Chargers, who had five three-pointers in the game, could not get off a clean shot. When Tyler Steinmetz’ shot came up short, the Chargers had to foul. The final point came on a free throw by Marquis Dorsey with five seconds to play.

“It’s certainly disappointing for the boys in there as they played their tails off,” Couch said as he stood outside the team’s dressing room at Valley High School. “It was a great run. I couldn’t be more proud of a group of kids.”

It was a spectacular late-season run for the Chargers. After losing in overtime at Bullitt Central on Jan. 25, the Chargers’ record stood at 10-11. After that, the team won nine of ten entering the contest against Butler.

In the post-season, the Chargers avenged losses to Fern Creek and Jeffersontown to claim the team’s first 24th District title in four years. The regional run started with a win over Moore before an emotional 45-42 win over Pleasure Ridge Park in the semi-finals.

Butler earned a spot in the final with a win over Bullitt Central.

“When you beat a team in a tough game it is hard to do it again,” Couch said of the rematch against Butler. “But we thought we could do it.

“We had played well the last three or four weeks,” the coach pointed out. “It is a tall order in any regional final. We played our tails off. Just a few more shots fell for them.”

It really wasn’t a good shooting day for the Chargers. The final numbers had the red and gold shooting 38.2 percent overall and only 33 percent in the second half.

Butler was only a shade better at 43.8 percent.

While the Bears were only four of 11 at the foul line, Bullitt East missed a golden opportunity when they got to the foul line 26 times. However, the team missed nine of those chances including three misses in the final three minutes when the team was already in the double-bonus.

Another telling statistic was that the Chargers turned the ball over 19 times, nine more than their opponent.

“They were doing pretty much what we expected,” Couch noted. “We didn’t handle their pressure very well. We turned it over more than we should have.”

Bullitt East led early, taking a 10-7 advantage into the first break. Butler had a 9-3 run early in the second quarter and it took a three-pointer by Steinmetz late in the second quarter for the Chargers to pull within 20-19 at halftime.

The two teams went back-and-forth in the third quarter. The last lead for the Chargers came at 32-20 on two free throws by Wiseheart, but Butler scored the next five points before Zak Perdew tied the game with a three-pointer. The Bears then went ahead for good when Maurice Tolley made a three-pointer at the end of the third quarter before Trey Minter opened the fourth quarter with a pair of three-pointers.

Butler made four three-pointers in the second half and all four came in a four-minute span late in the third quarter and early in the fourth. The Bears were driving the ball to the basket and then kicking it back outside for open looks.

“We played three or four different defenses,” Couch explained. “We were trying anything to stop their penetration. They hit that groove in the third quarter.” 

Perdew was the leading scorer for the Chargers with 13 points but no other Bullitt East player had more than the eight points off the bench by junior Hunter Brogan who connected on a pair of three-pointers.

Bullitt East also had a 32-27 rebounding edge as Watson finished with a game-high eight rebounds.

The loss ended the Chargers’ season at 20-13.

Underwood led Butler with 12 points while Minter, with a trio of three-pointers, collected 11 points.

The title was the first for the Bears since 2010.

With the win, Butler (25-7) advances to this week’s Kentucky State Basketball Tournament at Rupp Arena in Lexington. The Bears will open play at noon on Thursday against 14th Region champion Perry County Central.

After the trophy presentation on Saturday, Bullitt East’s Perdew and Steinmetz were named to the Rudy J. Ellis All-Tournament team. Butler’s Tolley, Dorsey and Jadon Lamb were also on the honor team along with Bullitt Central senior Aiden Terry.

 

Boys’ Sixth Region Tournament Championship Game at Valley HS.

BUTLER 52 (7-13-18-14) Yusef Chandler-Westbrooks 5, Marquis Dorsey 3, Maurice Tolley 7, Cameron Underwood 12, Damione Jackson 2, DyShawn Brown 2, Thomas Dozier 2, Jadon Lamb 8, Trey Minter 11.

BULLITT EAST 48 (10-9-16-13) Zak Perdew 13, Thomas Wiseheart 6, Ethan Boyer 1, Tyler Steinmetz 7, Josiah Morris 6, Rece Watson 7, Hunter Brogan 8.