MT. WASHINGTON, Ky. – The Butler High School girls basketball team nearly got buried under a barrage of 3-pointers by Bullitt East star and Miss Basketball candidate Lindsey Duvall in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s showdown between the Sixth Region powers.
But the Bearettes, led by their own Miss Basketball candidate (Jaelynn Penn), dug themselves out of an early hole and rolled to an 84-72 triumph.
“I was happy to see us compete. Being down, you never know how your kids are going to respond,” said Butler coach Larry Just, whose team trailed by as many as 11 points. “My kids have been through this before and I thought they kept their composure.”
Senior guard Breia Torrens tallied 21 points, while junior center Molly Lockhart added 19 and Penn had 16 to lead the Bearettes (2-1), the defending state champs and the No. 1 team in The Courier-Journal’s preseason coaches poll.
Penn, a 5-foot-9 senior forward, also made a difference on defense, holding Duvall – who went for 18 points in the first half – to nine in the second half for the seventh-ranked Chargers (2-2).
Those two were ranked as the No. 1 (Penn) and No. 2 (Duvall) players in the state in The C-J’s preseason coaches poll.
Asked afterward if she took the matchup personally, Penn responded: “No, not personally. It was just going out here and taking care of business.”
The Bearettes did that in the second and fourth periods, when they outscored Bullitt East 55-33.
“I think their execution showed in the second and fourth quarters, maybe their experience too,” Chargers coach Chris Stallings said. “They’ve played in more big games than we have.”
Butler, however, had to overcome a big start by Duvall. The 5-10 senior guard, who has signed with the University of Louisville, hit a trio of 3-pointers and a layup in the first quarter, staking the Chargers to a 21-13 lead. Then, she hit another 3-pointer nine seconds into the second quarter, giving Bullitt East its largest lead.
But that’s when Butler fought back. The Bearettes, who beat the Chargers 58-49 in last season’s Sixth Region semifinals on the way to their second state title in three years, outscored Bullitt East 22-7 the rest of the half.
“We started making some shots and we got some better spacing offensively,” said Just, whose team led 35-31 at intermission. “We threw the press out there just to mix it up a little bit on them, see if we could kind of mix the tempo a little bit so they weren’t just coming down and getting what they were used to getting. I think that may have helped us a little bit, just getting them out of rhythm more than anything. We got a couple of buckets out of it on steals. I thought it changed things.”
Butler led by as many as seven in the third quarter before the Chargers closed it with an 8-2 run that was capped off by Duvall’s buzzer-beating three that cut the Bearettes’ lead to one (51-50).
That was as close as Bullitt East would get, though.
A 13-2 blitz midway through the fourth quarter clinched it for Butler. Penn had six points in that stretch and later added a couple of key assists to Lockhart, who scored 11 points in the final period.
“Jaelynn, I thought she was solid,” Just said of the Indiana University recruit. “For us she does so many things. She defends, she rebounds, she had some great looks to Molly in the fourth quarter. She just does so many things that don’t show up in the stats.”
Senior guard Fontasia Jeffries chipped in with 13 points for the Bearettes, who were 17 for 19 from the free throw line, including 15 of 17 in the fourth quarter.
Senior forward Kirstie Henn was the only other player in double figures for Bullitt East. She finished with 18 points, 13 in the second half.