Butler flattens Flyers to claim 5th title

March 13, 2016 FieldsColumn

Butler celebrates its fifth state championship.

Butler celebrates its fifth state championship.

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Butler cemented its place as one of the preeminent girls’ basketball programs in Kentucky history by blasting Franklin County 62-36 to win the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen championship Sunday afternoon.

The Bearettes claimed their fifth state title (2016, 2014, 2008, 1980, 1975) to join Laurel County as the only 5-time champ in the modern era. (Ashland won 5 titles between 1921 and 1929.)

Butler overwhelmed Franklin County 15-0 to start the game and 14-0 to start the second half to suck all the drama out of BB&T Arena and keep the 3,444 fans fairly quiet. Butler led 42-15 midway through the third quarter.

The Bearettes’ 26-point margin of victory was the second-largest in finals history, topped only by M.C. Napier’s 88-56 rout of Highlands in 1994.

“We just ran into a dad-burn buzz saw today,” Franklin County Coach Joey Thacker said. “We got back on our heels and it was over. We were just horrific to start the third quarter.”

Jaelynn Penn with the spoils of victory.

Jaelynn Penn with the spoils of victory.

Jaelynn Penn, a silky-smooth 5-foot-9 junior, led Butler with 21 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. She led the tournament in total points (67) and rebounds (37) and earned MVP honors.

“She’s done so much all year for us in so many ways,” Coach Larry Just said. “Scoring, defense and rebounding. She gets balls nobody else gets. She’s phenomenal, and we’ve got a great supporting cast around her. I’m lucky.”

Thacker said Penn is “dynamite. She’s obviously one of the top five players in the state, if not the best junior. She’s a talent.”

Penn said there was no secret to the Bearettes’ success: “We know defense wins championships, and we live by that.”

Even though Just worried about his team having enough left in the tank after tough victories over Elizabethtown and Murray the previous two days, Penn said it was no problem getting energized for the finals: “We were excited and we were ready.”

Butler got title-game contributions from Teri Goodlett, Allison Just and Bre Torrens, who had 7 points apiece. (Torrens 7 points came in the opening minutes of the third quarter when the Bearettes delivered the knockout punch.) Just also had 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Goodlett had 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

Franklin County, which was in its first championship game since it lost to Butler in the 1980 finals, was led by junior Princess Stewart’s 10 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. Seventh-grader Brooklynn Miles, playing with the poise of a senior, had 9 points, 2 assists and 2 steals.

The Flyers had a nightmare afternoon shooting the ball. They were 12 of 51 (23.5%) from the field, including 5 of 26 (19%) from three-point range. They were 7 of 14 from the foul line.

Franklin County graduates seniors Malaka Frank, Dasia Kilbourne and Anna Arrastia, but Thacker is optimistic about next season.

“I know this sounds crazy, but I think we’ll be pretty good,” he said. “We may not be as deep, but we’ll be as good a basketball team if we put the work in.”

Butler also figures to be a state contender again next season. The Bearettes will return Penn, Janna Lewis, Bre Torrens, Teri Goodlett and Tasia Jeffries.

But for now, Just and his players will celebrate another championship.

“It’s just surreal,” Just said. “You get to this point and you just hope you can make it happen for the kids. They did, and I’m happy for them.”

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