BOWLING GREEN, Ky.
For more than two minutes of the fourth quarter, the Butler High School girls’ basketball team held the ball without attempting a shot. And by the time Elizabethtown got the ball back, the game was all but over.
Butler knocked off E’town 49-38 in Sunday’s championship game of the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet 16 at E.A. Diddle Arena, in a somewhat strange finish.
Her team trailing 44-38, E’town’s Rachel Warden missed a 3-point try with 3:17 remaining. With only three team fouls, the Panthers were forced to foul four more times to put Butler on the free-throw line.
But it didn’t happen until the 1:11 mark, as the Bearettes moved the ball around the perimeter without taking a shot.
“I didn’t know if we could do that,” Butler coach Larry Just said. “We were actually playing for uncontested layups or nothing. That’s what we were told. They (his players) did a great job of keeping spacing and holding on to the ball. They finished it well.”
E’town committed its fourth team foul with 2:45 left, leading to the final media timeout. Panthers coach Tim Mudd said he made his team aware of the foul situation.
“I thought they understood to foul and that we’d only fouled four times,” he said. “Obviously they didn’t understand, so we’ll live and learn.”
E’town finally got the message, committing its fifth foul with 1:43 left, its sixth at the 1:14 mark and its seventh with 1:11 remaining. Jaelynn Penn missed the front end of the one-and-one situation, but E’town committed a turnover on its next possession and Butler sealed the game at the free-throw line.
Butler sophomore Allison Just, the coach’s daughter, said her team handled the final minutes well.
“I was really shocked they weren’t coming after us,” she said. “We took care of the ball so well.”
A repeat performance?
A lot can happen before the start of the 2014-15 season, but both Butler and E’town figure to be at the top of the preseason rankings.
Of Butler’s top 10 players, Sweet 16 MVP Danielle Lawrence was the only senior. Two juniors, two sophomores and five freshmen are expected to return.
Of the seven E’town players to see action Sunday, reserve guard Kinsey Mudd was the lone senior. The Panthers will return three juniors, two sophomores and a freshman.
“I hope they’ll stay hungry and humble,” Tim Mudd said. “I think we have a good core group coming back. We just have to keep working and get better.”
Big-time role players
With so much depth, it wasn’t surprising to see Butler get big contributions from role players such as sophomores Just and Micaiah Bowden down the stretch.
Just scored five straight points for Butler, including a 3-pointer that gave the Bearettes a 42-38 lead with 5:04 left. Bowden followed with a shot in the lane for a 44-38 advantage.
“It’s been this way all year long, somebody different every night,” Larry Just said. “It’s a great group of young ladies that just pull for each other.”
Allison Just said Butler’s depth has been a key all season.
“If some people are off, you can just keep going to the bench because you can depend on so many people,” she said. “Somebody will be on, and when we’re all on it’s great.”
* Along with being named the Sweet 16 MVP, Lawrence was one of three Butler players to be named to the all-tournament team, joining Penn and Bre Torrens.
Others selected were Elizabethtown’s Erin Boley, Reauna Cleaver and Darien Huff; Clark County’s Sandra Skinner and Lexxus Graham; Ashland Blazer’s Alex Young and Haley-Sue Foutch; Anderson County’s Makenzie Cann; Marshall County’s Bailey Greer; Lafayette’s Dee Givens; and Danville’s Essence Grey.
Other award winners were Lawrence (Patti Jo Hedges Ultimate Teammate Award), E’town’s Warden (Kentucky National Guard Best & Brightest Award), Butler’s Tasia Jeffries (Forcht Bank Uncommon Excellence Award) and Marshall County’s Toni Fehrenbacher (Courier-Journal’s Joe Billy Mansfield Award).
* Butler now has 26 all-time victories in the Sweet 16, passing Laurel County (25) for the most ever.