Butler stops Knott County Central's comeback, wins 57-46

Knott County Central made a great comeback Thursday night.

Thanks to Butler, though, not great enough.

After blowing a 30-17 halftime lead in less than a quarter, Butler answered to beat the Patriots 57-46 to complete the first round of the PNC/KHSAA Boys' State Tournament in Rupp Arena.

Butler (20-11) will meet Mason County in the last of Friday's quarterfinals at 8 p.m. In three previous tournament trips, Butler was winless.

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Thomas Blakemore led the Bears with 17 points. Demetrius Butler added 13, Demetrius McReynolds had 11 and sophomore point guard Jalen Wesson had six points to go along with five assists. Darius Stone had five points and a game-best 12 rebounds.

Knott got 10 points from Stuart Stamper. Mikey Slone had nine points, seven rebounds and, in the third quarter, blocked three shots. Tate Cox added eight points and three assists, while Zack Davis had seven points and 10 rebounds.

"We find a way to make it interesting," Coach Shawn Purlee said after Butler's season-best sixth consecutive win.

Interesting would include a triple-overtime regional win over Shawnee, followed by a four-point win over Bullitt East and an overtime win over Iroquois for the 6th Region title.

"That's the first thing I told them in the locker room — you persevered one more time. You found a way to win," Purlee said. "And I just continue to be proud that they find a way to do that."

The Bears used a 17-5 second quarter to build a 30-17 halftime lead.

Butler made 13 of 23 first-half field-goal attempts (56.5 percent) to Knott's 6-for-22 (27.3 percent).

"I think their quickness bothered us, kept us from getting our normal shots off," said Dave Fraley, coach of the Patriots (26-7).

Not in the third quarter, though.

Knott Central rallied to retake the lead, 35-34, on Braxton Ratliff's put-back with 35 seconds left in the quarter.

"In high school basketball, when you make shots everybody gets quicker and has more energy," Fraley said.

Mikey Slone sparked Knott's big quarter with seven points, including the first five of the quarter.

A Demetrius Butler look-what-I-found layup with four seconds left gave Butler a 36-35 lead to end the period.

He then opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer and, after a Ratliff layup for Knott, a two-point jumper. That put the Bears up 41-37.

"When I shot the three, I felt like I was disrespected," Demetrius Butler said with a grin. "I was disrespected because he gave me so much room."

Wesson's mid-range jumper made it 43-37, and Butler's lead would not shrink to less than four.

Knott's last gasp came on Stamper's put-back with 3:11 left, making it 47-43.

Butler scored the next 10 points, blanking the Patriots until Zack Mullins' three-pointer with four seconds left. Blakemore had seven of the 10. McReynolds added two and Wesson a free throw.

"We had a couple turnovers and that killed us," said Fraley, whose team finished with 10. "It seemed like every one we had was big. ... When you're fighting to get out of a hole, every turnover stops you."

Butler had never won in three previous tries in the State Tournament, the last coming in 2002.