First week of February will tell us a great deal

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The Homestretch!

By Mike Farner

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - As hard as it might be to believe as snow covers the ground outside, but there are only four weeks left in the high school basketball season.

So far, it has been one remarkable season in the local area.

First and foremost there was the win by Bullitt East over Jeffersontown in the second round of the Boys’ Louisville Invitational Tournament ten days ago at Bellarmine. Jeffersontown was the top-ranked team in Kentucky and two national polls had the other Chargers listed among the top 35 teams in the country.

Whoever has the job of declaring these things needs to put this one right up there with the biggest regular season victories in the program’s history. Wait a minute. I think that is my job and I just did it.

In fact, other than perhaps the win over Scott County in the 2004 Eighth Region championship game and the 1992 victory over Bullitt Central in the 29th District Tournament championship game, I doubt if there has ever been a victory to rival that one in the LIT in the previous 31 years of Charger boys’ basketball.

But the Chargers are not the only story in the county this year. Amazingly, all three of the Bullitt County boys’ teams had winning records as of last week. While Bullitt Central and North Bullitt are not quite at the level of Bullitt East, they are both having very good seasons.

On the girls’ side, there are positive stories also as both Bullitt East and Bullitt Central rank among the top teams in the Sixth Region. In fact, if you go by some of the computer rankings, the Lady Chargers and Lady Cougars are the second and third best teams in the Sixth Region.

It will be quite interesting when the two rivals meet again on Feb. 4 in Shepherdsville.

But as anyone with more than a passing interest in high school basketball knows, seasons aren’t made over the first three months. It is the final month of the season where memories are made.

That surge will start with the 24th District Tournament at Bullitt Central starting on February 21 (yes, it is an early start to the post-season this year). The next ten days will see regional action at Bellarmine University’s Knight’s Hall. Hopefully the journey might extend a few more weeks after that.

Boys’ Future

In three of the last four seasons, Bullitt East and Fairdale have met for the 24th District title and that certainly seems to be the collision course for the last week in February this season.  

The Chargers and Bulldogs will meet again on Feb. 1 with the winner getting the number one seed and the loser taking the second spot. Bullitt East already has a lopsided win over Fairdale in a game in the King of the Bluegrass Tournament, but I think we’ll learn more with this second meeting.

The two teams have developed a very intense rivalry since being aligned into the 24th District and I expect a huge crowd for that meeting in Mount Washington. This isn’t the best Fairdale team in recent memory, but it is always going to be intense when they play Bullitt East.

The other three teams in the district certainly have the talent to pull an upset ‘on any given night,’ but they certainly won’t be favored if they play either Bullitt East or Fairdale. Bullitt Central might be a little more of the wild card only because they will be playing at home that week.

The outlook is not nearly as cut and dry for the next round of play. The Sixth Region Tournament will be loaded. Bullitt East has that win over the top team in the state, but still only ranks third in the region behind Pleasure Ridge Park and Central. The Chargers are just ahead of Iroquois (a team they lost to on the road by two points) as well as Western, the team that the Chargers beat in the first-round of the LIT.

Any of those five teams could be considered a favorite in March. How the district results unfold and translate into the regional draw will be very important.

Girls’ Future

No matter how you cut it, the Butler Bearettes are the top team this season in the Sixth Region. The defending champions have beaten both Bullitt East (early in the season) and Bullitt Central (recently by ten points). The Bearettes are the only Sixth Region team in the top-20 in the state (ranked 9th).

How the Bullitt Central-Bullitt East district showdown unfolds will have an impact on the regional. One of those two teams will be a district runner-up and could face Butler in the first round of the regional.

It has been a long time since Bullitt Central and Bullitt East have both been such key players in the regional. I would probably have to go back to 1992 when Shelby County beat Bullitt Central in the Eighth Region semi-finals and then beat Bullitt East in the final.

Even with that said, the two teams right behind the two local teams in the rankings are probably closer to the Lady Cougars and Lady Chargers than the locals are to Butler. Central has a win over Bullitt East and Holy Cross has beaten Bullitt Central this year, although, both of those losses came on the rad by tight scores.

The two rivals will meet again in Shepherdsville on Feb. 4 with the winner getting the top seed in the district and the lower getting the second seed. It won’t matter (other than bragging rights and momentum of course) since the other three teams in the district really don’t appear capable of beating either of the top two teams.

Still, there is the great unknown out there in girls’ basketball this season at both the district and regional level. That involves Bullitt East and the return of Jessica Philpott. The senior has missed the entire season since having surgery on her knee late last summer.

Bullitt East head coach Chris Stallings has downplayed her possible return, but there is a chance that she could be back on the court for Senior Night and then play in the post-season.

There are a ton of questions involved in that scenario, but the possibility of her return clouds any view into the post-season for a lot of teams, fans and writers.