Butler rally ends drought
Tornado girls net come-from-behind 37-34 section win
By Mike Kilroy
Eagle Staff Writer
ROSS TWP — Midway through the third quarter, the Butler girls basketball team had scored five points.
North Hills had a 20-5 lead and the Golden Tornado offense looked lost and powerless.
Things were about as bleak as they could be.
Yet the players were unshaken.
“We just couldn't back down,” said junior forward Alyssa Eyth. “We just told everyone to keep shooting, they'll go in, to keep talking, to keep bringing the intensity.”
And just like that, the switch was flipped on. The shots began to fall. The defense, which had been a constant, stiffened even more.
Butler went from ice cold to scorching hot in the final 12 minutes and outscored North Hills 32-14 to pull out a dramatic and improbable 37-34 win in the section opener at North Hills Middle School Monday night.
The victory snapped a 14-game section losing streak for the Tornado.
“The girls were so awesome,” said Butler coach Joe Lewandowski. “Did you see that?”
Lewandowski definitely didn't like what he saw early.
Butler (7-2, 1-0) was shut out in the first quarter as North Hills built an 8-0 lead.
The Indians (5-4, 0-1) extended that lead to 11-0 before Eyth drained a 3-pointer to end the prolonged drought with five minutes remaining in the first half.
The Golden Tornado didn't score again until Eyth hit a jumper at the second-quarter buzzer to go into the half trailing 14-5.
Butler didn't score for the first four minutes of the third quarter. Then Jenna Kunst got hot.
The junior forward hit two 3-pointers, including a step-back 3 at the buzzer to make it 21-20.
Kunst began the fourth quarter with another 3 to give Butler a 23-21 lead.
“I was so pumped,” Kunst said.
But North Hills responded and scored eight quick points to regain a six-point lead.
Butler, though, didn't fold.
“After that, we could have easily said, 'Hey, you know what girls, it's just not our night,'” Lewandowski said. “But we didn't. We kept fighting and working.”
Kunst, who finished with a game-high 17 points, was 4-for-4 from the field in the fourth quarter for nine points.
Eyth scored 11, none bigger than the four she scored at the line late — two to give Butler a 35-33 lead with 15 seconds left and two more with less than a second remaining to give the Tornado the final victory margin.
“Oh my gosh,” Kunst said. “(Alyssa's) foul shots were huge.”
Eyth had struggled earlier this season from the line, but an intense free throw shooting practice leading up to the game Monday set Eyth straight and gave her confidence again.
“None of them were going in during a game,” Eyth said. “The other day at practice, we shot a ton of foul shots. That definitely helped.”
The win broke a 14-game section losing streak for Butler.
The Golden Tornado also avenged two lopsided losses to North Hills last season in which they scored just 24 points in each game.
“We didn't want it to end up like last year,” Kunst said. “We didn't want that to happen again.”
For North Hills, the loss was a particularly tough one to take for coach Lauren Wilmus.
“We stopped defending. We stopped what we were doing in the first half,” Wilmus said. “We did what was successful, then we stopped doing it.
“We were selfish. We were reaching. We were fouling. We weren't in position to help. Those things add up to a loss.”
North Hills was successful at taking the 3-pointer away from Kylee Lewandowski. The freshman has done a lot of damage from the perimeter this season.
But she adapted and made two driving, scoop layups from the baseline to aid in the comeback.
Butler also drew upon the close games it had played recently.
“I think all of our preseason games paid off,” Coach Lewandowski said. “We had close games. We had tight games. This was really the first one where we had to dig deep.”
Coach Lewandowski hopes it is the kind of win that can propel a team going forward.
“We have to keep working,” he said. “These are tough, gritty Butler girls. They'll do whatever it takes to win and they did tonight.”
Audrey Hilliard splits North Hills defenders Jordan O'Malley, left, and Jess Bowen as she heads down the court Monday night in Butler's 37-34 girls basketball win. Tye Cypher/Special to the Eagle
Audrey Hilliard 0-3 0-0 0, Mia Rader 0-3 0-0 0, Alyssa Eyth 3-5 4-4 11, Kylee Lewandowski 4-10 0-0 9, Jenna Kunst 6-9 2-4 17, Nicole Pepmeyer 0-1 0-0 0, Julia Gibson 0-0 0-0 0, Sydney Hanratty 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 13-31 6-8 37.
NORTH HILLS 34
Jordan O'Malley 0-6 0-0 0, Jess Bowen 3-9 1-4 8, Skyler Swartzenbaugh 0-0 0-0 0, Anna Treser 3-7 0-0 7, Kristen Collins 4-6 2-2 13, Savannah Powers 2-2 1-2 5, Aidan Schmeider 0-0 1-2 1. Totals: 12-30 5-10 34.
Butler 0 5 15 17 — 37
North Hills 8 6 7 13 — 34
3-point goals: Butler 5 (Eyth, Lewandowski, Kunst 3); North Hills 5 (Bowen, Treser, Collins 3)
Friday: Shaler at Butler