Butler gets shot at record-tying 5th title
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Butler will be chasing history when it goes up against a once-upon-a-time opponent in the girls’ state basketball finals Sunday night.
Butler outlasted All “A” champion Murray 68-58 in the semifinals of the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen Saturday night in BB&T Arena.
The victory earned the Bearettes a chance to tie Laurel County as the only 5-time state titlist in the modern era. They will play Franklin County in Sunday’s 2 o’clock title game. Butler grounded the Flyers in the 1980 finals.
Larry Just, who coached Butler to its 2014 championship, said he hasn’t had time to think about his team’s shot at history. “That’s something if it happens, it happens. I’ve got a tired basketball team and we just have to find energy for tomorrow.”
Murray sapped Butler with a valiant comeback. The Lady Tigers, trying to win their 30th game in a row, trailed 41-24 in the third quarter before putting together a 16-2 run to make it 43-40.
“That may have been as excited as I’ve been in 20 years,” Coach Rechelle Turner said. “Just for the simple fact that we felt like at that point we let (Butler) know we were here.”
Butler pulled away again to lead by 10 (52-42), but Murray refused to give in. It rallied to within 2 points three times before Butler put the game away by hitting its last 12 foul shots.
“That’s what great teams do. They hit their free throws,” Turner said.
Janna Lewis, who hit the game-winning shot in the Bearettes’ semifinal win over Elizabethtown, led the way against Murray with 16 points, including 6 of 6 free throws.
Allison Just and Jaelynn Penn each had 12 points. Penn also had 9 rebounds and 3 steals. Micaiah Bowden added 11 points.
Murray was led by sophomore Macey Turley’s 17 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals. Lex Mayes had 15 points and 4 steals. Maddie Waldrop added 12 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocks. Alexis Burpo chipped in with 10 points.
“What do you say about these kids?” said Turner, who has 432 victories in her 20 years with the Lady Tigers. “I don’t care what the scoreboard says, these kids are winners.
“This team is amazing. It’s because of their character and because of their willingness to be so unselfish in their fight. The tears are because it’s over. We never wanted this season to end. If you’d let us play 35 more games, we’d do it right now.”
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