After building a double-digit advantage in the first half, Butler used a battering fourth quarter to put to rest a Ryle upset bid, 72-45, Friday morning in the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic semifinals at Lexington Catholic.
Jaelynn Penn, an Indiana signee and a Miss Basketball favorite, had 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals for the Bearettes, who reached the finals for the second-straight season. Tasia Jeffries, who’s signed with St. Louis, had a game-high 20 points for the defending state champions.
Ryle never led but got to within seven points midway through the third quarter, after which Butler led 48-37. The Bearettes used a 24-8 binge in the final period to come away with their eighth straight win and largest of the tournament.
Juliet McGregor, a sophomore, led the Raiders (5-7) with 16 point, six rebounds and two blocks. Maddie Scherr, a freshman who’s been offered by the University of Kentucky, had six rebounds, four assists and three steals but was 0-for-8 from the floor, finishing with three points.
Ryle’s team composition – its top five scorers are sophomores or younger and only two of its players are seniors – is similar to Butler’s three seasons ago, when the Bearettes won the 2014 Sweet Sixteen title.
“They’re gonna be a team that people are not gonna want to play as the years go along and as this year goes along,” Butler Coach Larry Just said.
Of immediate concern to Just was figuring out how to spend the downtime in-between the morning session and the finals, slated for 6:30 p.m. Friday. He said Butler would scout the second semifinal – Manual versus Sacred Heart – then grab a bite to eat before finding somewhere to hang out.
“We’ll try to figure out the afternoon here with no place to go,” Just said. “We had to check out of our hotel, so it kind of is what it is at that point.”
Regardless of whichever team prevailed in the second semifinal, it would create an all-Louisville championship game. Just offered his thoughts on the prospective matchups.
“Both of them are very talented teams,” he said. “Manual’s not as deep as they’ve been in the past but they certainly have good players in their top five, top six players. Sacred Heart on the other hand is deep. They’ve got quality players and they are deeper than they’ve been in years past.
“Either way, it’s December and we’re just trying to continue to figure ourselves out. … We’re just happy to have a chance to get back in the finals this year.”