Defense sparks key win for Butler girls
ROSS TWP — With the lead slipping away on the road against a desperate team, the Butler girls basketball team was searching for some composure.
It found it.
A lot of it.
With a 10-point lead down to just one, sophomore Jordan Kauffman drained two big free throws for some breathing room and then senior Mia Rader salted the game away with four consecutive foul shots as the Golden Tornado held on for a 36-29 section win over North Hills.
Butler coach Mark Maier used a string of the word “huge” to describe the Tornado never coughing up the lead when all the momentum was on the Indians' side of the court.
“They're like a cornered rattlesnake,” Maier said of North Hills (4-10, 0-6). “They haven't won in the section yet and they just came off a win Saturday, so they had some momentum. If they got a lead, I think our girls think, 'Oh, no, here we go,” and their girls think, 'Yes, we got it now.'”
Instead, Butler had it. And kept it.
Kauffman calmly sank her two free throws with 2:31 left in the game. Rader then buried her two foul shots with less than 25 seconds remaining after the Butler defense had stonewalled North Hills on the other end.
“I kind of just envisioned myself at practice,” Rader said. “I told myself we need these and I have to put these in. I'm a senior and I need to do that.”
As clutch as Butler was at the line late, its defense came up big all night.
The Tornado were down 7-3 early, but surged ahead 10-7 and then 13-10 and never trailed again.
Butler held North Hills' leading scorer Jordan O'Malley to just four points. The senior guard came in averaging 15 points per game.
The Indians shot just 27.5 percent from the floor and were a dismal 4 of 10 from the line.
“We probably won this game on the defensive end,” Maier said. “To give up 29 points in a high school game on the road is pretty good defense.”
Rader said that's what is required in Butler and she and her teammates enjoy the slog of defending hard for 32 grueling minutes each night.
“We know we have to defend to win games,” Rader said. “So, that's what we do.”
Rader was also pleased with the poise the Golden Tornado showed throughout the second half.
Butler has a knack of finding itself in gut-check situations.
“We just kept saying, 'We'll grind it out like we always do,'” Rader said.
“Our games always seem to end up like that,” she added, smiling. “We're kind of used to playing like that.”
Jenna Kunst paced Butler with 10 points. The senior forward hit three of Butler's six 3-pointers in the game.
Alyssa Eyth added eight and Rader and Emilee Altman each had seven for the Tornado (9-6, 4-2).
Maier is just happy to escape with another road section win.
“It's so hard to win on the road,” Maier said. “No matter who it is. It's tough to play here.”
Mia Rader 1-2 4-6 7, Alyssa Eyth 2-8 3-4 8, Jordan Kauffman 1-1 2-2 4, Emma Monteleone 0-2 0-0 0, Jenna Kunst 3-7 1-2 10, Emilee Altman 3-6 0-0 7. Totals: 10-26 10-14 36.
NORTH HILLS 29
Jordan O'Malley 1-7 1-4 4, Savannah Powers 3-5 0-0 6, Sydney Ryan 3-9 0-2 7, Claire Babicz 0-2 0-0 0, Aidan Schneider 0-2 2-2 2, Kayla Haile 0-2 0-0 0, Lexie Kotwica 4-12 1-2 10, Abigail McElhaney 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 11-40 4-10 29.
Butler 13 10 5 8 — 36
North Hills10 5 5 9 — 29
3-point goals: Rader, Eyth, Kunst 3, Altman; O'Malley, Ryan, Kotwica