In a game worthy of a state championship finals game. Bethlehem edged Bullitt East 70-65 in a first round game, Thursday at Rupp Arena in the 2021 Mingua Beef Jerky Girls State Tournament.
Bethlehem (26-4) ranked eighth advances to play Marshall County a 56-52 winner over Pikeville, Friday at 5.
The second game of the day was a heavyweight match between to of the best teams in the state. There were six lead changes in the fourth quarter and the game wasn’t decided until two free throws by Ella Thompson with six seconds remaining.
“It was a great high school Basketball game,” Chargers Chris Stallings. “We just fell a little short. That’s all you can say.”
Thompson led the Banshees with 25 points, eight rebounds and four assist. Bethlehem has won two straight All A Classic state titles. They are one of the smallest schools in the state and played in the overall tournament in 2019.
“I kept telling the girls in the timeouts it was going to come down to who wanted it the most and who made the plays down the stretch,” said Bethlehem coach Jason Clark.
Lexi Starr hit a three pointer that tied the game at 46-46 entering the fourth quarter.
Once in the fourth quarter the lead changed hands six times. Merkle the Charges 6-foot-5 center scored 12 points in the fourth quarter that gave the Chargers its last lead 54-53 lead with 5:14 remaining.
Thompson scored nine points in the fourth quarter including a big three pointer with 4:28.
“It’s our last go round,” said Thompson who played on the 2019 team. “We want to give it everything we’ve got. We don’t want to end or high school careers and feel like we had unfinished business.”
Bethlehem made 11 of 12 free throws in the last 1:41 but Thompson’s one miss left the door open for Bullitt East. Lilly Reid’s three pointer pulled the Chargers within 66-65 with 24.4 seconds.
Thurman hit two free throws with 22.2 making the score 68-65. Bullitt East had a chance to tie, but Reid’s three point attempt missed.
“If it goes in; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” Stallings said of the shot.”We can live with that as long as we get a good look. I think out spacing got messed up a little bit, but we still got a good look.”
Bethlehem made eight of 19 threes and shot 37 percent overall.
“I thought we’d be in the game if we held them under 40 percent, and we were,” said Stallings. “That’s all you can ask as for as a coach. We had a chance, and it just didn’t go our way.”