Erin Boley and Elizabethtown put the rest of the state on notice Wednesday, running away with a 60-37 win over preseason No. 3 Butler in the finals of the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic.
Boley scored a career-high 39 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in the win, Elizabethtown’s third straight finals victory in the Holiday Classic, one of the top girls’ basketball tournaments in Kentucky. Only tournament host LexCath, which won four times from 2004 to 2007, has more TBHC crowns. Boley was named the tournament MVP a record third time.
“It’s always special to win this tournament,” Boley said. “It’s a big tournament. There’s always really good teams here, so it’s always a good feeling and a special thing to do.”
She scored 21 of her 39 in the first half, lifting the No. 1 Panthers (10-0) to a 31-14 halftime edge. She went 11-for-15 from the field — 3-for-3 from behind the arc — and hit 14 of her 15 attempts from the line. She also came away with two steals.
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Butler had some success with its pressure in the second half, in which it forced most of Elizabethtown’s 13 turnovers, but couldn’t turn many of them into points. For every made layup, there were two shots that drew iron but went back to the Panthers. While the Bearettes attempted 15 more shots than did Elizabethtown (45 to 30), they shot 33 percent to the Panthers’ 56.7.
“They’re always a really good man-to-man team. They put on a lot of pressure with their man defense,” said Boley, a Notre Dame signee. “But I think since the beginning of the year we’ve learned to handle pressure a little bit better game-by-game.”
After E-town’s win over No. 9 Bowling Green in the semifinals, Coach Tim Mudd noted how much his team had improved at being patient with the ball since the start of the season.
“I liked our composure,” Mudd said Wednesday. “ ... It’s very enjoyable to watch a group grow and mature together. You can see that our chemistry on this team is really good. They do a good job of cheering for each other and picking each other up when somebody makes a mistake.”
There are no guarantees in athletics, Mudd said. The Panthers have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen the past two seasons only to come up short in the finals (2014) and quarterfinals (2015).
“A break here, an injury here, a call here, a turnover here — when you get in one-game scenarios like a state tournament or a district or a region, a lot of things can happen,” Mudd said. “So you can’t take things for granted. ... The purpose of us coming up here was to get better, and I feel like whether we won today or not, we’ve done that.”
No team has scored more than 52 points against the Panthers this season. They have beaten their opponents by an average of 31.5 points and handed two preseason top-10 teams 20-point losses in less than 24 hours. Could Elizabethtown become the fourth girls’ team in state history to run the table?
“We have the skill and the talent to do it,” junior Jada Stinson said. “As long as we don’t get above ourselves and play basketball and be humble, we can do it.”
Elizabethtown 60, Butler 37
Elizabethtown (10-0) — Knight 5, Stinson 6, Warden 2, Thomas 8, Boley 39.
Butler (8-1) — Jeffries 6, Penn 14, Goodlett 8, Lockhart 3, Lewis 4, Just 2.