(Cover photo credit: Samantha Stallings)
By Ashli McLean
It was an undeniable showcasing in a pretty crowded Christian Academy gym as the Butler girls’ basketball team charged their way past Male to win 68-54 at the 44th Republic Bank/Coca-Cola Consolidated Louisville Invitational Tournament (LIT).
Butler had to face the Male Bulldogs for the second time this season, which the Bearettes also won 73-65 at home on Dec. 1. Not only that, but Butler also had to play three LIT games in the last 30 hours, four games total.
“I think you get deep in this game,” said Butler head coach Larry Just, “legs, mentally, physically, the fatigue’s all there. We just battled through… I mean, you could kind of see how the physical play backed off as the [game] went on because I think kids were getting tired as much as anything. So I think when it got to that point, it’s kind of like, mentally, who’s the last person standing.”
The game went head to head in the first quarter. With the score tied at two, Male’s sharp shooter Emelia Sexton hit a three to take the Bulldogs up 5-2. Immediately following, Butler’s Allison Just also hit a three to tie the game again with just under six minutes left in the quarter.
Male hit seven, Butler hit seven. Male hit 10, Butler hit 10.
At the 2:45 mark, a double technical foul was called on Male’s Cameron Browning and Butler’s Molly Lockhart as both fought for a rebound. It was an intense moment in an already electric crowd full of parents and high-energy student sections.
In the final 9.6 seconds, Butler’s Janna Lewis powered her way in the paint with a spin move and an ‘and-one’.
The Bearettes trailed 16-17.
The remaining three quarters were all Butler, though. Their quick hands allowed for a few timely converted steals. Butler scored double the amount of points off turnovers to Male (32-16).
Coach Just was most happy about the defense his girls played, something that he’s been trying to get them to focus on after becoming complacent with a passive defensive mode. He also had the benefit of a productive bench, which outscored Male’s bench 21-5.
With 4:46 left before the half, Butler’s Jaelynn Penn fired a three in the corner to pull her squad ahead 27-18.
Sexton hit two more of her five 3’s for the night, but it was only enough to get Male within eight (36-48, Butler). She finished with 21 points, three rebounds and three steals.
Male struggled in the post when two of their reliable bigs, Browning and Logan Calvert, were both called for their fourth fouls with just under three minutes left in the third quarter. Male largely relied on I’liyah Green at that point, who finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds to take home the Bunny Daugherty Award for the defensive player of the tournament.
Penn maneuvered a sweet double-crossover while driving to the rim in the final 12 seconds of the quarter to push her team up 48-39. She had 17 points on the night, along with five rebounds, to receive the Joyce Seymour Award for the tournament’s offensive player.
And in the fourth quarter, Butler held the largest lead of the game at 59-40 with about four minutes left to eventually secure a 68-54 victory.
Male’s Ciaja Harbison finished with 14 points, three rebounds and three steals.
For Butler, Just was solid with 15 points and nine rebounds. Lewis had 14 points, 11 rebounds and three assists.
On winning the tournament, Coach Just said, “Well I think it gives us a big lift, confidence-wise, to know we can do it. This is a pretty tough tournament, you know. This wasn’t just anybody show up… the fact is you still have to beat some good teams.”