Butler used a suffocating defensive effort to knock off Sacred Heart, 50-36, in the first round of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen on Wednesday.
The Bearettes, ranked No. 1 in the state, limited the No. 2 Valkyries to 4-for-19 shooting in the second half and a 9-for-37 clip overall to advance to the quarterfinals.
Box score: Butler 50, Sacred Heart 36
It was Butler’s second win over Sacred Heart in three matchups this season; the Bearettes deopped the most recent round, 58-49, on Feb. 8 for the second of their two losses this season.
“I think our kids were pretty motivated coming in based on the last time we played Sacred Heart,” Coach Larry Just said.
Butler led by only one point at halftime but took command with a 15-0 run in the third quarter. Sacred Heart had shot 14 free throws in the first half, making 12, while Butler was just 1-for-1 at the line in the opening 16 minutes.
“They shot a bunch of free throws and we didn’t and that was due to us trying to block shots and things of that nature,” Just said. “In the second half we did a better job with that and that allowed us to get ourselves in transition.”
Jaeylnn Penn, considered by many the frontrunner for Miss Basketball, led Butler with 15 points. Tasia Jeffries had 10 points and a game-high seven assists.
Janna Lewis played only 11 minutes off the bench for the Bearettes but brought seven points and nine rebounds to the cause.
It’s the third state-tournament trip for Butler’s seniors, five of whom have signed to play college basketball. They’ll look to go undefeated in their appearances after winning state titles in 2014 and last year.
“I think the experience here’s gonna help us,” Just said. “The fact that we understand that one game is not an end-all to the tournament. This group, we beat E-town in the quarterfinal game and we still had to come back and play two great teams to finish that off a year ago.
“So this group has been through that. Sacred Heart’s a great team, we understand that. But we also understand that we’d like to be here ’til Sunday and have a chance to play on Sunday for what we came for.”
Grace Berger led Sacred Heart with 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. She was 3-for-12 from the field but went 7-for-8 at the free-throw line.