Girls' Sweet Sixteen: Stifling Butler press ends' Lafayette's season

mmaloney@herald-leader.comMarch 14, 2014 

  • Girls' Sweet Sixteen

    At E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green

    Saturday's semifinals

    7:30 p.m. EDT — Ashland Blazer (27-8) vs. Butler (31-3)

    9 p.m. — Clark Co. vs. Anderson Co./Elizabethtown winner

    Sunday's finals

    3 p.m. — Semifinal winners meet

    Live coverage: Visit Kentucky.com to link to live KHSAA audio and video broadcasts of every game. Games are also broadcast live on WVLK-FM 101.5

    On Twitter: Get live updates from @MarkMaloneyHL

    Photo galleries: See photos from each day's action at Kentucky.com.

    See complete Girls' Sweet Sixteen bracket and roundup of Friday's action, Page D8

Lafayette Coach Allison Denton made no excuses.

"You've got to credit Butler. They're an amazing team — very quick, very athletic and very, very well-coached," Denton said after Butler's 62-50 victory in Friday's quarterfinals round of the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls' Sweet Sixteen. "We executed what we wanted to do at times, and at times their athleticism took over. And they scored out of their press and transition, which we were trying to keep them from doing. We knew a lot of their offense was going to come from their defense, and they did a good job of that tonight."

The Bearettes (30-3) forced 23 Lafayette turnovers and finished with a 27-10 edge in points off turnovers.

"The best I've seen this year," Denton said of Butler's press. "They're quick and they read the floor well, and apparently know each other really well. And they do a really good job on the first inbound pass. That's the ticket."

Danielle Lawrence led Butler with 23 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals. Jaelynn Penn added 17 points as the Bearettes won their 18th game in a row.

The win, before a Diddle Arena crowd of 2,979, put Butler into Saturday's semifinals against Ashland Blazer.

Dee Givens had 19 points to pace Lafayette (28-4), which was in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 30 years. Ashanti Thomas had 11 points, all in the second half, with 10 rebounds. Sarah Cooley totaled eight points and 11 boards.

"Lafayette, the concern we had coming in was their size and athleticism," Butler Coach Larry Just said. "But one of the things we felt we could try to exploit was some depth, as we've done all year long, and just try to make this as up-tempo as much as we could, hoping that we could get a run somewhere through this whole thing."

The Bearettes got a pair of runs that turned the game in their favor.

Lafayette led 20-18 after Givens scored on a backdoor cut with 1:33 left in the first half.

Butler finished the half with a 10-2 run to take a 28-22 lead into the locker room.

"That was huge," Just said. "I felt like we could get a run somewhere if we kept pushing, and our kids did a great job of just playing one possession at a time, and yet stayed patient enough to wait for that to open."

Lafayette came out in the second half and pounded the ball inside to Thomas, a 6-foot-4 junior. She responded by scoring 10 of the Generals' 13 points in the third quarter.

"Every time we were going in to Ashanti. Second half, that was the whole plan," Denton said. "... I think she did a great job of utilizing her size the second half."

The Generals pulled to within 37-35 at the quarter stop.

But then Butler scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter to take control 45-35.

Breia Torrens started things with a three-pointer. Micaiah Bowden converted a three-point play, and Penn scored in transition.

The lead was never less than eight the rest of the way.

Said Just: "I felt like we could pressure their guards and get them to throw the thing around a little bit. ... To get 23 turnovers out of a group, particularly in an elite eight setting, that's pretty good."

Good enough to reach the final four.

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.

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