HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – Featuring a deep roster, a smothering defense and one of the state’s top juniors, the Butler High School girls basketball team sealed its fifth state championship with a dominating performance Sunday.
Junior guard Jaelynn Penn posted 21 points, 11 rebounds and four assists and was named tournament MVP as the Bearettes whipped Franklin County 62-36 in Sunday’s final of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Sweet 16 in front of 3,444 fans at BB&T Arena.
Butler (31-5) won its second title in three years and tied Laurel County for the most in the modern era of Kentucky girls basketball (starting in 1975). Ashland also won five state championships from 1921-29. Current Butler assistant Terri Keown was a sophomore guard on the first title team in 1975.
“I’m happy for Butler High School,” head coach Larry Just said. “It wasn’t me as much as it’s been the tradition all the way through. For Butler to be on that list of people to be talked about, that’s satisfying for them.”
MORE COVERAGE | Photo gallery
The Bearettes – No. 2 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings – have gone eight-deep all season, and all eight scored at least two points Sunday. Sophomore Molly Lockhart had nine points. Senior Allison Just and juniors Bre Torrens and Teri Goodlett added seven points apiece. Just and Goodlett both had seven rebounds.
Princess Stewart scored 10 points to lead No. 5 Franklin County, which also lost to Butler in the 1980 championship game. Stewart hit just 3 of 14 shots as the Flyers shot just 23.5 percent (12 of 51).
Franklin County’s offense is predicated on drives to the basket, but Butler’s defense repeatedly kept the Flyers from entering the paint.
“They have big enough kids to alter our stuff when we get in there,” Franklin County coach Joey Thacker said. “We have some kids that have to run around in the shower just to get wet because we’re not real thick.”
Just was concerned about his team’s stamina after Saturday night’s late 68-58 victory over Murray in the semifinals, but the Bearettes looked no worse for wear Sunday.
Butler scored the first 15 points and took a 21-3 lead on Penn’s basket with 7:06 left in the second quarter. The Flyers were 1-for-7 from the field with six turnovers in the first quarter.
“After the game (Saturday) night we all took the time to take our ice baths and get to bed,” Penn said. “We were ready for today.”
The Bearettes then endured a five-minute scoring drought in the second quarter, and Savannah Courtney’s putback at the buzzer pulled the Flyers within 24-14 at halftime.
But it was all Butler from there, as Penn scored eight points and Torrens added seven during an 18-1 run that made it 42-15 with 2:43 left in the third.
“(Penn) is dynamite,” Thacker said. “She’s obviously one of the top five players in the state, if not the best junior. What she has done has evolved her perimeter game and not just be a driver-passer- distributor kid.
“We just ran into a dad-burn buzz-saw today.”
For the Bearettes, it was the culmination of a brutal stretch of games in the postseason. The Bearettes had to defeat No. 16 Bullitt East and No. 10 Mercy to get through the Sixth Region Tournament and then knocked off No. 11 Bowling Green, No. 1 Elizabethtown and No. 7 Murray in the first three rounds of the Sweet 16.
The Bearettes finished the season with a 14-game winning streak.
“They’ve been through a tough year, and they’ve answered every question that they’ve had to answer,” Just said. “They came here for one thing, and they went through the toughest road to get it. … They earned every bit they got today.”
With just two seniors on the roster – Allison Just and Micaiah Bowden – Butler again figures to be among the teams to beat next season.
“I have a lot of it back,” Larry Just said, “but we’re going to enjoy this one right now.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Butler (31-5) – Bowden 6, Just 7, Torrens 7, Jeffries 2, Penn 21, Goodlett 7, Lockhart 9, Lewis 3.
Franklin County (31-5) – Frank 4, Stewart 10, Arrastia 4, Miles 9, Courtney 6, Brunette 3.
3-point goals – Just, Torrens, Goodlett; Stewart 2, Arrastia, Courtney, Brunette.
MVP – Jaelynn Penn (Butler).
All-tournament team – Janna Lewis, Micaiah Bowden (Butler); Malaka Frank, Princess Stewart, Rebecca Cook (Franklin County); Macey Turley, Maddie Waldrop (Murray); Lyric Houston, Seygan Robins (Mercer County); Erin Boley (Elizabethtown); Caroline Hayden (Owensboro Catholic); Jynea Harris (Holmes); Mackenzie Schwarber (Campbell County).
Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches Patti Joe Hedges Ultimate Teammate Award – Rachel Warden (Elizabethtown).
Joe Billy Mansfield Award, sponsored by The Courier-Journal – Lily Ramey (Murray).