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BOYS' 19th DISTRICT CHAMPIONSHIP: Bardstown puts away Bethlehem for 5th straight title

Bardstown 61, Bethlehem 45

By Peter W. Zubaty, Sports Editor Saturday, February 24, 2018 at 10:07 pm (Updated: February 27, 1:13 pm)  


SPRINGFIELD — The system works.

PETER W. ZUBATY/The Kentucky Standard
PETER W. ZUBATY/The Kentucky Standard

Despite debuting an almost entirely new lineup with very little experience on the school’s four previous district title teams, Bardstown won its fifth straight district title Saturday over Bethlehem, 61-45, at Washington County High School, using coach James “Boo” Brewer’s patented brand of frantic pressure defense and riding whoever is the hot hand that night.

“You’ve got to give credit to these players,” Brewer said. “They’ve bought in to my style and my intensity. They came out the last part of the season and really came together. Their chemistry came together, they gelled together and started trusting each other. I’m very proud of them.”

Senior Dsamuel Butler drew that nod on Saturday, hitting a pair of threes in the first two minutes of the game and helping spark a big Bardstown run to finish the first half. A seldom-used reserve last year at Male High School, Butler leads the Tigers in scoring this year at 10.8 points per game, and had a game-high 19 in the finals.

“It feels good — it’s my first win,” Butler said. “We’ve just got to keep the intensity on defense … that’s what wins games.”

Both teams are in action in this week’s 5th Region tournament quarterfinals at Marion County High School. The Tigers face off with Campbellsville (15-15) for the third time this season at 6 p.m. tonight; Bardstown won both previous matchups by one point in a pair of thrillers. Bethlehem faces off with LaRue County (27-2), one of the region favorites, at 6 p.m. Thursday. The Eagles and Hawks have not played this season.

Montrez Railley was a reserve on last year’s district championship team for the Tigers, and is happy he and the current bunch of mostly newcomers got to claim their piece of that title legacy and keep the streak going.

“I’m feeling good,” he said. “Like Coach B. said in the locker room, we’ve got to ‘strive for five,’ and I think we did that tonight.”

Saturday’s championship was tight early on, but the Tigers used a 12-0 run keyed by Saturday’s hot hands, guards J.T. Galloway and Butler, to finish out the first half to take control for good and win going away over the Eagles. The duo combined for 33 points in the game, including all 12 during the big run.

“With Galloway, I’m probably pretty hard on him,” Brewer said of the junior. “The last couple of games he hasn’t played up to his par, but he came in tonight and he was really focused. He’s back.”

Bethlehem (10-17) came into the game with co-leading scorer Chase Allen out with an ankle injury, but for a time it looked like it wouldn’t matter. Butler’s early threes staked Bardstown (17-11) to an 8-0 lead, but the Eagles were able to weather that initial storm.

Lain Peake scored on a baseline drive toward the end of the first quarter, then hit a 10-footer to start the second. When Jacob Taylor fed Bryson Cissell for a baseline jumper a minute into the frame, the Eagles had a 12-11 lead. Bethlehem went cold the next three minutes, but so did Bardstown, and Taylor was able to put his team back on top at 14-13 after driving the baseline for a dunk midway through the frame.

After Butler got his third three of the game to put the Tigers back up, Taylor hit a 16-footer to tie it at 16-16 with 3:07 till half. Bethlehem didn’t score again until the second half, however, as the Bardstown defense started to crank up the pressure.

Galloway answered Taylor’s bucket with a driving layup, then Butler stole the ball and scored, and the Tigers never trailed again. In all, Galloway scored eight points during a 12-0 run that made it 28-16 at the break, while Butler had the other four.

In the second half, the Eagles were unable to keep pace as the Tigers looked to extend the lead. By the time Galloway scored from the baseline with a minute left in the third, Bardstown had claimed its largest margin of the game at 47-26.

“We try to pressure the ball so we can get into the passing lanes, and get steals and easy layups,” Railley said.

The lead grew as large as 23 three minutes into the fourth when Evan Newsome scored on a dunk, Trey Riney scored off an assist by Butler, then Butler got a steal and a layup, making it 57-34.

“We’re a dangerous team when we come to play,” Brewer said. “Everybody counted us out at the beginning of the year, but we made another run and we did good.”

Bethlehem managed to piece together an 11-0 spurt after falling behind by 23, with Peake, Taylor and Chris Hurst each hitting three-pointers to pull within 57-45. Peake had a chance with 1:37 left to perhaps get the deficit down to single digits, but his three try rimmed off and Bardstown’s Montrez Railley claimed the rebound.

“The biggest thing in basketball is it’s all about matchups,” Bethlehem coach Chris Taylor said. “Tonight, for whatever reason, I tried every (lineup) combination I could think of, and I didn’t get the right one until late in the game. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get that combination earlier. Maybe it would have been a different outcome.”

Railley and Riney, who scored nine apiece, each hit a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to set the final margin.

Galloway ended up scoring 14. Taylor led Bethlehem with 14, and Peake finished with 11.