Librarian leads 19-0 Butler hoop squad
7th grade girls dominated opponents under fi rst-year coach C.J. Gattens
BUTLER TWP — Books and basketball.
C.J. Gattens carries plenty of expertise in both.
Gattens is in her third year in the Butler Area School District and works as a librarian at the North West Elementary School. She also took over as head coach of Butler's seventh grade girls basketball team this season.
She guided the squad to a 19-0 record, the program's first perfect season in years.
“People keep asking me that, how does a librarian coach a basketball team?,” Gattens said. “But I've got a long background in sports.
“(Butler varsity girls coach) Mark Maier asked me to coach this team and I was happy to do it. I would love to coach the seventh grade team again next year.”
There's no reason why she shouldn't.
The seventh grade Tornado scored 772 points this season — 40.7 per game — and allowed 277, or a paltry 14.6 points per contest.
Butler's closest game this season was a 25-19 win over North Allegheny Marshall. Other school districts in its section include Shaler, Seneca Valley, Pine-Richland, North Hills and Hampton. The Tornado defeated Hampton 70-14.
Quarters are six minutes long at the junior high level.
“I've never heard of a seventh grade girls team scoring 70 points in a game and I've been around sports a long time,” Gattens said. “That was incredible.
“It wasn't one girl who scored a bunch of points, either. We had nine girls score in that game.”
By the fourth game of the season, every player on Butler's team had scored “when some teams at this level only have two or three players who score in a game,” the coach said.
Gattens was a three-sport athlete at Baldwin High School, playing soccer, basketball and softball. She played soccer and softball at Clarion University.
When Maier asked her to coach the seventh grade girls — upon being recommended by a couple of teachers — Gattens figured she was getting a decent team.
“But this was nothing like I expected,” she said. “These girls were true athletes. They were also very respectful, nice girls.
“I coached soccer for a number of years, but these were the most coachable girls I've ever been around.”
Dacia Lewandowski is the only player on the team who averaged in double figures. She netted 10.4 points per game, scoring 198 points overall. Hannah Aldridge scored 110 points and Brynn Morton scored 92.
“There really were no stars on this team. The girls played together and their defense suffocated the opposition,” Dave Aldridge, Hannah's father, said. “They held some teams to less than 10 points.”
Gattens agreed with that assessment.
“We used a number of different lineups throughout the season,” she said. “I didn't have the same set starting five.”
Maier found Gattens by happenstance — through a conversation with a teacher at an open house.
“I'm good friends with Mr. (Chris) and Mrs. Morrow, who teach at North West, and Mrs. Morrow knew I was looking for a seventh grade coach,” Maier said. “She asked if I had found one and when I said no, she suggested I talk to C.J. Gattens.
“I knew nothing about her, discovered she was a librarian and wondered what she would know about basketball. Then I saw her athletic background and how much she was interested.”
Gattens voluntarily attended Butler's high school open gyms last summer “to get back into the swing of the game,” Maier said.
“She didn't have to do that, but she did. And what a find as a junior high coach. She's been great.That team's record speaks for itself.”
Other players on the team were Katie Kerr, Samantha Miller, Tori Stevenson, Ava Carney, Justine Forbes, Maisy Gibson, Nilah Foley, Carlie Baker and Ava Plunkard.
Butler's eighth grade girls were 13-5 and the Tornado junior varsity was 21-1 this season.
“The future of this program looks pretty good,” Gattens said. “There is a lot of talent in this system.”
“We've got a nice foundation in place. That's for sure,” he said.