Butler kept taking the basketball away from Bullitt East in the first half Friday afternoon. Then the Bearettes sank free throws to keep the Chargers from charging back in the second half.
It was an effective method that led the Butler girls’ team to a 50-30 victory in the semifinals of the Class Act Federal Credit Union Sixth Region Tournament at Valley.
Aareon Smith scored 12 points, including 10 of 10 on free throws, to lead Butler (23-7) to Tuesday’s 6 p.m. final against Mercy, which beat Pleasure Ridge Park 76-53. The Bearettes will be vying for their fourth straight trip to the Sweet Sixteen.
Bullitt East had 24 turnovers, including 19 in the first half, as Butler won the season rubber match. In their last meeting the Chargers (24-8) had defeated Butler 60-50 on Jan. 29 in the Louisville Invitational Tournament.
Smith wasn’t surprised to see her team turn the tables in a dominating fashion in the playoffs.
“We remember losing to them by 10 in the LIT, so we knew we wanted to come out and run them out of the gym,” she said. “… We knew we’d have to face them again in the regionals, and we did not want to lose.”
Alexis Stallard added 11 points and Danielle Lawrence 10 points and nine rebounds to help Butler’s cause.
Butler made 25 of 33 free throws, including 21 of 27 after halftime.
After Bullitt East closed to 23-18 with 3:23 to go in the third quarter, Butler responded with 10 points, including six foul shots, in the fourth quarter.
Butler’s last 11 points came on free throws as its lead grew to 23 points.
“Teams that win championships make free throws,” said Butler coach Larry Just, whose team also won at Bullitt East 60-55 on Dec. 4. “… Missed free throws are like turnovers, and our kids know that. I think they did a great job.”
Eighth-grader Lindsey Duvall’s six points led Bullitt East, which trailed 19-8 at halftime.
Butler got 12 of their 14 steals in the first half, when Bullitt East made just 2 of 11 shots.
Bullitt East coach Chris Stallings said his team didn’t rotate the ball well or make many of the open shots it got. He couldn’t pinpoint why the Chargers struggled to handle the ball against a defense he felt they were prepared for.
“We’ve been known to throw in a clunker every know and then, and boy, we picked a bad time,” he said.
Bullitt East (24-8) – Duvall 6, Fryman 5, Peak 4, Willis 4, Blair 3, Pfister 3, Bass 3, Blain 2.
Butler (23-7) – Smith 12, Stallard 11, Lawrence 10, White 5, Winebrenner 4, Elliott 2, Pearson 2, Casey 2, Just 2.
3-point goals – Fryman, Blair; White.