Defense the key as Butler girls continue hot start, top Montour, 35-31
By Mike Kilroy
Eagle Staff Writer
BUTLER TWP — For Butler, patience is a virtue.
So is a strong defense.
The Golden Tornado used a large supply of both in dispatching Montour, 35-31, Thursday night in the championship game of the Butler Christmas Tournament.
For the second straight night, Butler was frugal with its shots, attempting just 27 field goals and only nine in the second half.
“Really, that’s too few,” said Butler coach Joe Lewandowski. “But at the same time, it was the pace of the game. It was the way things were setting up. They changed defense multiple times and we were playing a possession game. We feel like we have a lot of people who can handle the basketball, so we’re not afraid to hold the basketball.”
Butler (6-2) had two trips down the floor in which it maintained possession for more than two minutes.
It served to frustrate Montour offensively.
The Spartans only managed to take 32 field goal attempts themselves.
“Defense has been such a constant,” Lewandowski said. “We’re holding them to minute possessions and giving them one shot and out. It’s really difficult to play that way.
“We forced them to play our style and that’s always a benefit.”
Jenna Kunst got the Golden Tornado going in the first half, hitting her first four shots and scoring nine of her game-high 15 points.
Kunst also had seven rebounds and five steals to lead Butler.
“She was just all over the floor,” Lewandowski said.
Kylee Lewandowski again hit some big 3-pointers and finished with 11.
Butler has played up-tempo and at a slower-pace this season.
That’s something Joe Lewandowski said will benefit them in the future.
“Offensively, we’ll get better. It’s part of being young,” the coach said. “I feel like we can play multiple styles.”
Butler never trailed.
Montour (2-4) got as close as 17-16, but Kylee Lewandowski it a 3 at the buzzer to give the Golden Tornado a 20-16 lead at the half.
Butler led by nine early in the fourth quarter and was able to hold off the Spartans.
“We are so young — last year, we weren’t in any of these games,” Coach Lewandowski said. “They’re learning all of this now. When you’re losing games by a bunch, you don’t have a chance to execute end-of-game situations.”
Butler will begin section play Monday at North Hills.
It’s a reset button of sorts for the Golden Tornado, who have passed the trials of the first third of the season quite well.
“For us, this was a good warm-up for section. Now we have to take what we learned and put it into section play where the games are going to be close like this.”
Maura Hickey 2-7 0-0 5. Courtney Tomas 2-7 6-6 10, Kemper Foster 0-2 0-0 0, Kennedy Stevenson 4-8 0-0 8, Gabby Tanny 0-0 1-2 1, Amalia Esposito 2-7 1-2 7, Aisha Pillard 0-1 0-0 0, Mia Scrabis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 10-32 8-10 31.
Audrey Hilliard 1-5 0-0 2, Mia Rader 0-2 0-1 0, Alyssa Eyth 0-1 3-7 3, Kylee Lewandowski 3-8 2-2 11, Jenna Kunst 6-9 2-2 15, Julia Gibson 0-0 1-2 1, Morgan Gage 1-2 0-0 3, Nicole Pepmeyer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 11-27 8-14 35.
Montour 5 11 5 10 — 31
Butler 7 13 8 7 — 35
3-point goals: Montour 3 (Hickey, Esposito 2); Butler 5 (Lewandowski 3, Kunst, Gage)