MOUNT WASHINGTON — It wasn't the kind of season opener Bullitt East senior star and University of Kentucky signee Derek Willis envisioned.
The 6-foot-9 Mr. Basketball favorite, who said he was tired of being banged around by Lafayette, picked up two technical fouls and was ejected midway through the third quarter. He left with 14 points, six rebounds, three blocked shots and a resigned look of frustration.
When he went to the bench, Bullitt East, No. 2 in the pre-season ratings, led No. 11 Lafayette by 16 points.
The Chargers brushed off Willis' departure and wound up beating Lafayette 74-57.
Rusty Troutman, a 6-5 senior, was Bullitt East's standout. He hit seven of 11 three-pointers and had a career-high 32 points and seven rebounds.
"He's a Mr. Basketball candidate," Coach Troy Barr said. "He's one of the best players in the state. He can take games over."
Trey Rakes, a 5-11 senior point guard, had 17 points and five assists.
Troutman and Rakes combined to score 25 of Bullitt East's 28 points after Willis was ejected.
"That's our responsibility on the team," Troutman said of their leadership. "Derek lost his head a little, but that's going to happen. Me and Trey took over."
Barr said he told Troutman and Rakes to do just that.
"We told them in one of the huddles, 'You guys are taking us home,' and they took us home."
Troutman, a Bellarmine signee, hit three threes after Willis sat down. Rakes had 10 points in the fourth quarter when the Chargers spread the floor to kill the clock.
Lafayette Coach Mike Mendenhall wasn't surprised by Bullitt East's poise.
"They're battle-tested," he said. "There's a reason why they're back-to-back 6th Region champs. They showed it. They understand what it takes to win."
The Generals were led by 6-8 junior Jackson Davis, who overcame foul trouble to get 19 points and eight rebounds. Tranard Chester had 14 points. Nick Trisko and Shon Wright had seven points each.
Lafayette had 16 turnovers in the first half to fall behind 34-21. It had only five turnovers in the second half.
Midway through the third quarter, Willis got a technical when he complained about getting called for an illegal pick. He then chirped again to an official, and got the second "T" and the heave-ho.
"It's frustrating," Willis said. "I'm getting tired of it. It's been going on for two years, and I guess it's not going to change. I just couldn't take it anymore."
Barr didn't condone Willis' action — "He's being immature and not handling the situation very well" — but the Chargers coach understood his big man's frustration.
"I see it boiling over from last year," Barr said. "(Derek) comes out in the first three minutes of the game and his mouth was bleeding. He's taking the same stuff he took last year.
"I see a young man 17 years old that's tired of getting beat up and pushed in the back.
"Obviously, nothing's going to be changing (with the officiating), so we'll have to move on and deal with it."
Willis' ejection means he must sit out Bullitt East's next two games — against Henry Clay in the Mr. Basketball Classic at Tates Creek on Thursday night, and against Hopkinsville in the Hoopfest at Marshall County this weekend.
LAFAYETTE (0-1) — Davis 19, Chester 14, Wright 7, Sweatt-Washington 6, Blakley 4, Trisk0 7.
BULLITT EAST (1-0) — Rusty Troutman 32, Willis 14, Rakes 17, Embry 3, Young 4, Rhett Troutman 2, Jones 2.
Lafayette 9 12 20 16—57
Bullitt East 13 21 19 21—74