Lawrence scores 14 as Butler girls beat Mercy for Sixth Region title

Lawrence scores 14 as Butler girls beat Mercy for Sixth Region title


Lawrence scores 14 as Butler girls beat Mercy for Sixth Region title


All season, Butler High School girls’ basketball coach Larry Just has held his breath as four talented freshmen found their way while playing significant roles.

Now he can exhale as the Bearettes have punched their ticket to the state’s biggest stage.

Senior Danielle Lawrence provided her typical steady influence and freshmen Jaelynn Penn and Janna Lewis made clutch baskets as Butler defeated Mercy 55-47 in Saturday’s championship game of the Sixth Region Tournament at Valley.

Penn, Lewis and fellow freshmen Bre Torrens and Tasia Jeffries have played major minutes this season and once again proved capable of handling big-game situations — and perhaps giving Just a few gray hairs along the way.

“I’ve had that concern all year,” Just said. “With the youth out here, I didn’t feel like we ever really settled in tonight. Some of that’s the game. Some of that’s Mercy. Some of it’s youth.

“I thought we got caught up in worrying about what the result of this game might be instead of just going out and just doing what you do. Luckily, we made enough plays when it counted.”

Lawrence had 14 points and four steals, Penn totaled 11 points and eight rebounds and Lewis added nine points and five rebounds as Butler (28-3) — No. 3 in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings — won its fifth regional title in seven years.

The Bearettes will face the Ninth Region champion — Notre Dame or Newport Central Catholic, who play today — in the first round of the Sweet 16 at 7:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday in E.A. Diddle Arena at Bowling Green.

“I was hoping we could find a way to get to Diddle so (the freshmen) could see what it feels like and maybe have that taste to want to get back each and every year,” Just said. “We know it’s not easy. A night like this tells you again that it’s never easy.”

Hannah Bewley scored 18 points and Jessica Laemmle added 13 points and four assists for Mercy (17-14). The Jaguars lost 6-foot junior center Malerie Martin to a knee injury at the 6:09 mark of the first quarter. She returned for a brief spell to start the second quarter but immediately returned to the bench and did not play the rest of the game.

Jaguars coach Keith Baisch said he wouldn’t know the extent of Martin’s injury until Sunday, but a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament was a concern. Martin’s absence showed up on the boards, as the Bearettes outrebounded the Jaguars 42-23.

“It definitely would have been a little different,” Baisch said. “How different? We’ll never know. We knew the key going into the game was that we had to rebound.”

Without Martin, Mercy stayed in the game with its trademark pressure defense, forcing Butler into 26 turnovers. And when Bewley sank a 3-pointer with 3:56 left to give Mercy a 44-43 lead, Baisch was thinking upset.

“I was thinking, if we could get three (defensive) stops in a row right then that we could pull this off,” he said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get that.”

Instead, Butler responded with an 8-1 run to take control. Miah Casey sank two free throws for a 45-44 lead before Lewis provided the game’s biggest points. After making a free throw and then missing the second, Lewis got her own rebound and completed a three-point play for a 49-44 lead with 3:11 left.

Four of Lewis’ five rebounds came on the offensive end.

“I was nervous before the game, but then I started getting into the game and saying, ‘We’ve got this,’ ” Lewis said. “It was pressure at first, but then it became easy for me.”

Lawrence’s steal and layup gave Butler a 51-45 lead with 2:12 remaining. Laemmle’s basket got Mercy within 51-47 with 1:15 left, but the Jaguars missed their final four shots and Butler made enough free throws to put it away.

Now it’s on to the Sweet 16, where Butler likely will be considered among the favorites in a season in which no clear front-runner for the state title has emerged. The freshmen will be making their first trip, but it will be Lawrence’s fourth try for a state crown.

As an eighth-grader, her team lost in the first round. During her freshman and sophomore years, the Bearettes lost in the quarterfinals.

“With me being a senior, I feel like it’s the biggest moment of my life,” Lawrence said. “We have unfinished business. … This time I want to take it all the way.”

Mercy 14 10 13 10 47
Butler 14 11 14 16 55

– Schmitz 1, Woods 5, Bewley 18, Parr 4, Anderson 5, Laemmle 13, Muthler 1.Mercy (17-14)

– Torrens 4, Lawrence 14, Penn 11, Winebrenner 4, Casey 8, Lewis 9, Just 5.Butler (28-3)

-Bewley 4, Laemmle, Penn, Just.3-point goals


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