Girls' Sweet Sixteen: Butler beats Elizabethtown 49-38 for fourth state title

mmaloney@herald-leader.comMarch 16, 2014 

No. 2 Butler scored the final 10 points in the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls' Sweet 16 to pull away for a 49-38 victory over top-rated Elizabethtown on Sunday in front of a Diddle Arena crowd of 4,284.

"It feels awesome — my senior year," said tourney MVP Danielle Lawrence, who totaled 13 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals. "I have no words. It's just awesome."

The title was Butler's fourth, the others coming in 1975, 1980 and 2008.

"I'm so excited for these kids," Coach Larry Just said. "They've worked hard. E-town worked hard. It's just a great basketball game, as I knew it would be."

Allison Just, apparently with ice-water running through her veins, added 10 points as the Bearettes (32-3) won their 20th game in a row.

Butler blew out to a 20-9 lead through one quarter and was up 25-12 early in the second.

In addition to Lawrence, Tasia Jeffries, who scored eight of her nine points in the first half, fueled the hot start with back-to-back three-pointers.

E-town (32-5) closed the half on a 10-3 spurt, though, to make it 28-22.

"I thought after the first quarter we played very well defensively, rebounded the ball, took better care of the ball," said Coach Tim Mudd, who led E-town to a title in 1998 and has had two other runner-up finishes. "But that first quarter was a killer for us."

But the game was on by halftime.

Third quarter, Butler got an early score from Jaelyn Penn, then missed its next seven shots while committing two turnovers.

The Lady Panthers took advantage to draw to within 30-28.

Later, Darien Huff's fast-break basket brought E-town to within 33-32.

Looking to take the lead, the Panthers' Erin Boley had her shot blocked by Lawrence, who took the ball all the way to the other end for a 35-32 lead through three quarters.

Lawrence came up with a steal-and-layup to start the fourth quarter, too.

"The third quarter we started losing some of that (resolve)," Larry Just said. "They finally kind of got settled in. Danielle got the steal and got a block and we finally got settled in again."

E-town was not done.

Twice the Panthers pulled to within a point.

The first, at 37-36, was answered by Allison Just with a baseline jumper.

Boley's two free throws with 5:27 left pulled E-town to within 39-38.

Allison Just again had an answer, this time a three-pointer from the corner.

"When you're open, you just shoot it," said the 5-foot-8 sophomore and daughter of the coach. "It's like every other shot.

"I wasn't aware (it was a one-point game). It was just part of the game, I guess. In the flow."

The three-pointer started Butler's 10-0 finish to the game.

After an E-town turnover, Micaiah Bowden scored.

And after a couple of E-town misses, Butler was able to run off more than two minutes while E-town failed to foul in a timely fashion.

"I told them at the timeout (with 2:45 left) we only had fouled four times, so we had two fouls to give," Mudd said. "I thought they understood to foul ... but obviously they didn't understand, so we'll live and learn."

By the time E-town sent Butler to the foul line, only 1:11 remained.

Penn missed the one-and-one, but E-town turned the ball over.

From there, Butler scored its last five points at the foul line, while E-town missed its last four shots.

Boley led E-town with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Huff was next with eight points.

The teams may well see each other in next year's state tournament as Lawrence is the lone senior starter for either team.

"You've got to give Butler a lot of credit because they deserved to win the game," Mudd said. "The outplayed us."

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

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