By Eric Thorne
The Butler girls’ basketball team used smothering defense and overpowering offense to roll to a 81-48 victory over Muhlenberg County in the quarterfinals of the Republic Bank/Coca-Cola Louisville Invitational Tournament on Friday at Bellarmine.
The No. 2 ranked Bearettes (15-4) were efficient in finding open players outside while controlling the glass with a 49-31 rebounding advantage led by Janna Lewis with 15, including 13 offensive boards.
“I didn’t rebound much at all last game so I had the mindset that I needed to do a better job and help my team,” Lewis said. “That’s the main part of my game and tonight it was much better.”
Butler pushed the first quarter lead to 27-10 on a Molly Lockhart put back. Butler was 12 of 20 in the quarter while Muhlenberg County was just 4 of 11 and was forced into 10 turnovers that resulted in 13 points.
Bearettes coach Larry Just was very pleased with his team’s play on both ends of the floor.
“I thought Janna rebounded very well for us and I was really happy with the way we distributed the ball and got everyone involved in the offense,” Just said. “We try to always play tough defense and that helps get our offense involved from there and we did a good job of that today.”
Muhlenberg County (7-13) has struggled this season after three seniors left the team. They are the defending Third Region champion from last year, but a shortage of size hurt the Lady Mustangs.
Lewis was a force on the offensive end working for many shots down deep in the paint. The junior tallied eight of her 10 first half points as the lead ballooned to 49-23 at intermission. She also pulled down 12 rebounds, with nine coming on the offensive end. She finished with 13 points.
On the outside Jaelynn Penn pumped in 15 points, while Fontasia Jeffries led the Bearettes with 17. Lockhart tallied 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Butler was 32 of 76 from the field including seven of 16 from three-point range.
Bailee Harney tried to keep the Lady Mustangs in the game with some nice outside shooting, but it was not enough. She scored nine of Muhlenberg County’s 16 points in the third quarter, but the Lady Mustangs trailed 70-38.
The sophomore finished with 16 points, while Ava Weikel added 13. Muhlenberg County hit just 18 of 50 shots (36-percent).
Butler has now won six of its last seven games with their only loss coming to Mercy 73-71. They will take on Mercer County, which they have not yet faced this season. The semifinal game will be Saturday morning (Jan. 30) at 10 a.m. at Christian Academy of Louisville.
“These are all good teams and we’ve been trying to string together some good games in a row,” added Just. “Hopefully that is something we can continue on Saturday.”