Girls LIT: How Madeline Curtsinger overcame injury, illness to lead Bullitt East to win

·6 min read

From an ankle injury to double pneumonia, Madeline Curtsinger has battled her fair share of adversity during her sophomore basketball season at Bullitt East High School.

But the 5-foot-10 forward took a big step back Wednesday, getting her first start of the season and scoring a game-high 15 points to lead the Chargers to a 54-38 victory over Southwestern in the second round of the Republic Bank Louisville Invitational Tournament at Valley High School.

Curtsinger also had seven rebounds and two steals in 18 minutes of action.

“Trying to get back has been really hard,” she said. “I’ve worked really hard, and I’m feeling good. It meant a lot (to start). It made me very proud of myself.”

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Lilly Reid added 12 points and six rebounds for Bullitt East (15-6), which is seeking its third straight LIT championship. The Chargers will face Manual in Friday's 7 p.m. quarterfinal.

Of course, this Bullitt East squad is much different than the past two, as Gracie Merkle (Bellarmine) and Emma Egan (La Salle) departed during the off-season for NCAA Division I programs. Those two led the Chargers to a state-runner-up finish, a run that included a 66-42 victory over Southwestern in the Sweet 16 semifinals.

Chargers coach Chris Stallings said his team — for the most part — “has risen to the challenge” this season.

Bullitt East’s Lilly Reid (32) drives against the Southwestern defense during the Girls LIT at the Valley High School gym in Louisville, Ky. on Jan. 25, 2023.
Bullitt East’s Lilly Reid (32) drives against the Southwestern defense during the Girls LIT at the Valley High School gym in Louisville, Ky. on Jan. 25, 2023.

“That’s a hard transition, especially when you lose two (Division I) kids who had been there a lot of years,” Stallings said. “I’ve been pleased up to this point. Maybe not every night, but overall it’s been successful. We just keep plugging away.”

Curtsinger’s performance Wednesday could be a good sign, as she entered the game averaging 4.5 points and 4.4 rebounds this season.

Curtsinger went through ankle-reconstruction surgery last season and reinjured the ankle during this preseason. After returning to action, she came down with the flu and then double pneumonia.

Stallings said Curtsinger earned her way back into the starting lineup.

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“She battled injuries and illness early, and she’s just been coming back and plugging away and getting better,” Stallings said. “She had a good game for us tonight on the boards. It was good to see.”

The Chargers jumped to a 17-4 lead after one quarter before Southwestern battled within 23-19 at halftime. Bullitt East put the game away with a 9-1 run to open the fourth quarter, taking a 46-28 lead.

The Warriors (12-9) played the majority of the game without top scorer Kinsley Molden, who suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter and sat out the rest of the contest.

Coach Junior Molden carried his daughter from the court to the bench after the injury. Junior Molden said the ankle “may be fractured.”

Southwestern head coach Junior Molden carried his daughter Kinsley Molden (24) off the court after she was injured against Bullitt East during the Girls LIT at the Valley High School gym in Louisville, Ky. on Jan. 25, 2023.
Southwestern head coach Junior Molden carried his daughter Kinsley Molden (24) off the court after she was injured against Bullitt East during the Girls LIT at the Valley High School gym in Louisville, Ky. on Jan. 25, 2023.

“It was pretty hard to coach for the next five minutes or so, just trying to get your composure back a little bit,” he said. “It’s just one of those deals, part of playing basketball.”

When the game ended, Stallings and each Bullitt East player gave Kinsley Molden a fist bump as she sat at the end of the Southwestern bench.

Payton Acey, who recently reached 1,000 career points, scored 13 points to lead Southwestern, which shot just 25% (12 for 48).

BULLITT EAST           17        6        14       17 – 54

SOUTHWESTERN       4        15        8       11 38

Bullitt East (15-6) – Madeline Curtsinger 15, Anna Tinelli 6, Carli Bryant 2, Logan Ortega 7, Anna Rodgers 9, Lilly Reid 12, Mollie Johnston 3.

Southwestern (12-9) – Jessalyn Flynn 6, Kiara Scott 1, Jordyn McDonald 11, Kaylee Young 3, Ayden Smiddy 2, Mollie Osborne 2, Payton Acey 13.

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Manual 45, Bullitt Central 12

Manual's Jakayla Thompson (3) works under the basket against the Bullitt Central defense during the Girls LIT at the Valley High School gym in Louisville, Ky. on Jan. 25, 2023.
Manual's Jakayla Thompson (3) works under the basket against the Bullitt Central defense during the Girls LIT at the Valley High School gym in Louisville, Ky. on Jan. 25, 2023.

JaKayla Thompson had 11 points, six rebounds and five steals and Sydne Tolbert added 10 points to lead the No. 2-ranked Crimsons (19-1) over the Cougars (16-7) for their 19th straight victory.

Manual led 23-1 at halftime as Bullitt Central missed all 12 of its shots and committed 19 turnovers in the first two quarters.

The Cougars got their first field goal on Emma Lesher’s 3-pointer at the 3:51 mark of the third quarter, making the score 37-4.

Lesher scored nine points to lead Bullitt Central.

BULLITT CENTRAL      1         0         5         6 12

MANUAL                   10      13       16       6 – 45

Bullitt Central (16-7) – Emily Bible 2, Emma Lesher 9, Ava Bucci 1.

Manual (19-1) – Lexi Weaver 4, JaKayla Thompson 11, Sydne Tolbert 10, Morgan White 6, Ashlinn James 5, Londyn James 1, Jazmine Chatman 3, Alana Smith 3, Morrai Blount 2.

Cooper 65, Assumption 32

Lehigh University signee Whitney Lind had 15 points and eight rebounds and Kay Freihofer added 14 points to lead the No. 3 Jaguars (16-2) over the Rockets (16-6).

Cooper shot 58.3% (14 of 24) on its way to a 36-17 halftime lead. Freihofer scored 10 of her points over the first two quarters.

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The Jaguars ran their winning streak to 14 and will face Mercy in Friday’s 8:30 p.m. quarterfinal.

Tayrn Morris scored nine points to lead Assumption, which committed 15 turnovers that led to 24 Cooper points.

ASSUMPTION    10          7            6            9 - 32

COOPER             15          21          17          12 - 65

Assumption (16-6) – Lauren Campisano 2, Nora Reader 2, Zoe Thompson 8, Delaney Cooper 5, Geriann Ackermann 6, Taryn Morris 9.

Cooper (16-2) – Addyson Brissey 5, Haylle Noel 9, Whitney Lind 15, Maleah Alexander 8, Kay Freihofer 14, Liz Freihofer 7, Logan Palmer 5, Yamilet Rondon 2.

Mercy 71, North Bullitt 27

Alyssa Murphy had 18 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals to lead the No. 5 Jaguars (16-7) over the Eagles (17-7).

Leah Macy added 17 points, nine rebounds and three steals for Mercy, which shot 57.6% in the first half to build a 52-19 halftime bulge.

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Murphy and Emma Barnett (14 points) both hit three 3-pointers as Mercy finished 9 for 21 from behind the arc.

Taylor McKnight scored eight points to lead North Bullitt.

NORTH BULLITT 8            11          5            3 - 27

MERCY                29          23          9            10 – 71

North Bullitt (17-7) – Emily Thorpe 6, Brooke McKnight 1, Ashlee Blair 3, Taylor McKnight 8, Emily James 5, Addison Soutar 4.

Mercy (16-7) – Aubrey Hester 3, Mary Smith 4, Hadley O’Bryan 3, Abby Reitzel 4, Keziah Renee 4, Alyssa Murphy 18, Emma Barnett 14, Peyton Arnold 4, Leah Macy 17.

Jason Frakes: 502-582-4046; jfrakes@courier-journal.com; Twitter: @kyhighs.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Girls LIT: Bullitt East, Manual, Cooper, Mercy move to quarterfinals