No. 1 vs. No. 2 was no contest.
Avenging its only loss of the season, the Butler High School girls basketball team stamped itself as the unquestioned favorite to win the state championship by swamping Male 85-57 in Saturday’s championship game of the Republic Bank/Coca-Cola Consolidated Louisville Invitational Tournament at Assumption.
Male defeated Butler 68-62 in the first week of the season, and the two teams have emerged since then as the top two in the state – with the Bearettes No. 1 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings and No. 16 nationally in the USA Today Super 25 and the Bulldogs No. 2 in the state and No. 12 nationally.
But on Saturday, Butler (23-1) clearly was the better team as it won its third LIT title in four years and its sixth overall. Only Sacred Heart (seven) has more LIT titles.
Butler has won 23 straight since that November loss to Male.
“There was a lot of stuff people were going to talk about, but the bottom line is you have to play between the lines,” said Butler coach Larry Just, whose team also is chasing its third state title in four years. “I have a lot of experience sitting over here, so they know what that’s about.”
Molly Lockhart, Butler’s 6-foot-3 junior center, dominated the paint, finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and six blocks and earned the Bunny Daugherty Defense Award as the LIT’s top defender.
Eastern Kentucky University signee Teri Goodlett was 9 for 9 from the field and finished with 21 points and six assists. Indiana University signee Jaelynn Penn added 11 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists and garnered the Joyce Seymour Offense Award.
Statistically, it was a near-perfect game for Butler, which shot 55.4 percent, hit 10 of 15 3-point tries, won the rebounding battle 42-20 and had assists on 28 of its 31 made baskets.
“They’re a great team, coach Just does a great job and the credit goes to them,” Male coach Champ Ligon Jr. said. “They had the fresher legs, and they basically just wore us out. … They’ve done a really good job of bringing some girls along since the beginning of the season, and that depth showed tonight.
“For us to beat them we have to play really, really well, and we just didn’t have it tonight.”
Butler stunned Male with a 3-point barrage in the first quarter and never looked back. Penn hit a trio of 3s and Goodlett and Torrens both hit one as the Bearettes took a 23-7 lead at the 3:13 mark of the period.
Goodlett scored 11 of her points in the first quarter.
“It just kind of turned into my night,” Goodlett said. “I hit a couple of shots in the beginning. My shot was there, so I just kept on taking it. … We took that loss to Male to heart, and we had to bounce back. We shouldn’t have lost that first game.”
Ciaja Harbison tried to keep Male (20-2) in the game, finishing with 22 points and three assists. Her 3-point play pulled the Bulldogs within 25-14 at the 1:13 mark of the first quarter, but they never were able to cut the Butler lead to single digits.
Just said the season-opening loss to Male was a wake-up call for his team.
“They played a zone the first time, and we really didn’t handle the zone very well,” he said. “I think just the fact that we have some games under our belts certainly helped us.”
Lockhart had perhaps the best day of her high school career Saturday after posting 28 points, five rebounds and two blocks in an 81-63 victory over Sacred Heart in the morning semifinals.
While Butler will turn its attention toward more hardware with the postseason three weeks away, Saturday was about redemption.
“We knew we had to redeem ourselves,” Lockhart said. “We knew we should have played like this the first game of the season, and we didn’t play to our expectations.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.
BUTLER 85, MALE 57
Male (20-2) – Ciaja Harbison 22p, 3a; Joelle Johnson 2p; Emilia Sexton 5p; Destiny Combs 4p, 3s; Jada Owens 2p; India Green 11p; Kyra Hogan 5p; Cameron Browning 2p; Logan Calvert 4p, 6r.
Butler (23-1) – Bre Torrens 9p, 4a; Tasia Jeffries 7p, 7r, 7a; Jasmine Elder 2p; Kiara Cain 5p; Jaelynn Penn 11p, 12r, 8a; Teri Goodlett 21p, 6a; Ashley Wright 2p; Molly Lockhart 23p, 8r, 6b; Janna Lewis 5p.
Joyce Seymour Offense Award – Jaelynn Penn (Butler).
Bunny Daugherty Defense Award – Molly Lockhart (Butler).
All-tournament team – Jaelynn Penn, Molly Lockhart (Butler); Cameron Browning, Ciaja Harbison (Male); Kiki Samsel, Ashlee Harris, Grace Berger (Sacred Heart); Lyric Houston, Seygan Robins (Mercer County); Lindsey Duvall (Bullitt East).