Butler buzzer-beat beats E-town
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Janna Lewis wasn’t supposed to take the last shot for Butler, but she did, and her buzzer-beater gave the Bearettes a dramatic 61-59 victory over Elizabethtown in the quarterfinals of the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen Friday night.
Butler (29-5), a four-time state champion, will play All “A” state titlist Murray (35-1) in Saturday night’s semifinals in BB&T Arena.
“(Coach Larry Just) called a play and it didn’t work, so I flashed to the middle,” Lewis explained. “Breia (Torrens) found me and when I turned around I was open, so I said, ‘OK, I’ll shoot it,’ and it went in.”
For E-town, the heartbreak was familiar. In last year’s Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals, Covington Holy Cross hit a shot in the closing seconds to beat the Panthers 41-40. Holy Cross went on to win the state title.
“It seems like deja vu,” E-town Coach Tim Mudd said.
The Panthers led Butler by 14 points in the first half, but the Bearettes rallied and the game was a back-and-forth thriller most of the second half.
E-town star Erin Boley hit two free throws to pull her team within 59-57 with 2:15 left. The Panthers’ Kendall Pack then got a steal that led to Boley’s game-tying jumper with :48 remaining.
Mudd’s defensive strategy in the closing seconds was to keep the ball out of the hands of Butler’s best playmakers, Jaelynn Penn and Tasia Jefferies. E-town sat back and let Butler hold the ball for the last shot, which wasn’t what Just expected.
“I was absolutely surprised,” Just said, noting that E-town had just pressured his team into a turnover that led to Boley’s game-tying basket.
“The fact that he sat back …. I’ll let him take that chance. From where I come from, I’ll take the last shot.”
Mudd didn’t second-guess his strategy. “You can ‘if’ and ‘and’ it to death,” he said.
Just commended his team’s poise in creating a game-winning play.
“Breia found Janna, she had space and got it up on the glass, which is what you’ve got to do to give yourself a chance,” he said. Thank goodness it went it.”
Lewis led Butler with 20 points. Penn had 14 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals. Micaiah Bowden had 11 points, all in the second half. Jeffries added 10 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
Boley, a finalist for Naismith’s national player of the year, wrapped up her standout career at E-town. She had 22 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. She led the Panthers to three consecutive 30-win seasons, including a state runner-up finish to Butler in 2014.
Jada Stinson had 14 points for E-town. Taylor Thomas added 10.
Mudd, who guided the Panthers to the state title in 1998, said winning and losing in the Sweet Sixteen usually comes down to a favorable whistle or the bounce of the ball.
“I firmly believe in 1998 we got some breaks and won it. The last two years we haven’t gotten a break. That happens. That’s life. That’s basketball.
“But it’s hard. It rips out your guts. I hate it for these kids.”
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