Having won back-to-back Sixth Region championships, the Bullitt East High School boys’ basketball team has a wealth of postseason experience.
But Derek Willis, Rusty Troutman, Trey Rakes and the other Chargers seniors will experience something a bit different this postseason: the pressure of being the favorites and of knowing this is their final shot at a state championship.
“There’s a little bit of pressure with the fact that we’ve won two of them and this is the last chance to go out with a state title,” Bullitt East coach Troy Barr said. “But I wouldn’t trade spots with anybody. I like our guys, and I think they like the spot they’re in.”
Bullitt East (26-4) — No. 3 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings — joins No. 1 Trinity (24-5) and No. 2 Ballard (24-4) as co-favorites to bring home the state title as postseason action starts around Kentucky on Monday.
The Chargers will face Whitefield Academy at 6 p.m. Wednesday in a 24th District semifinal at Fern Creek.
Bullitt East has an 11-game winning streak and is 21-1 against Kentucky competition this season. Its only loss was to No. 5 Madison Central, 64-58, on Dec. 23 in the third-place game of the King of the Bluegrass Holiday Classic. The Chargers had defeated the Indians 72-66 just eight days earlier.
Barr said his team is “right where I thought it would be” at this point of the season.
“You see some good teams have faltered here lately,” Barr said. “We’ve had out little bumps, but we’ve been able to handle it. … I really feel like we’ve showed up just about every night.”
No. 6 Pleasure Ridge Park, No. 9 Fairdale and No. 15 Butler are the other ranked teams in the Sixth Region, and Bullitt East owns victories over all three.
Barr said Jeffersontown, Doss and Moore also are capable of making runs at the regional title.
“I don’t know that I’d say one of them is the top contender,” Barr said. “They’re all capable of big games.”
Trinity and Ballard have been the class of the Seventh Region all season, with No. 14 St. Xavier, Male and Central also in the mix.
Trinity, which captured the Louisville Invitational Tournament title in January, had won 13 straight games before a shocking 68-51 loss at Jeffersonville (Ind.) on Friday. The Shamrocks’ only losses to Kentucky opponents this season were against St. X and No. 4 Henry Clay.
Since its 53-52 loss to Trinity in the LIT final, Ballard has won nine in a row by an average margin of 22.8 points.
Here’s a look at three key district tournament elimination games across the state this week:
* Bowling Green vs. Warren Central on Thursday in 14th District semifinal at Greenwood: The Purples and Dragons have teamed to win 10 of the past 11 Fourth Region titles, but one of them will be watching from the stands next week.
* Bryan Station at No. 7 Scott County on Tuesday in 42nd District semifinal: The Defenders and Cardinals split their two regular-season meetings.
* Hazard at Perry County Central on Tuesday in 54th District semifinal: These 14th Region contenders have won a combined 45 games this year.