PARK CITY, Kan. – For the second time this season, the Butler men were unable to hold on to a double-digit lead against Neosho County. This time, a loss to the Panthers ended the season, as Butler fell 82-78 in the Region VI semifinals at Hartman Arena.
The Grizzlies end the season 19-14. No. 16 Neosho (28-5) advances to the championship game on Thursday night against either Hutchinson or Cowley.
When Travis House made a layup and free throw with 3:17 left in the first half, Butler led 38-24, its biggest lead of the game.
Neosho, however, would outscore Butler 10-2 the rest of the first half, cutting Butler's lead to just 40-34 at the break.
Neosho continued its surge in the second half, taking a 43-42 lead on a 3-pointer by Tucker Thompson with 16:41 to play. Neosho would never trail again.
The Grizzlies overcame a seven-point deficit down the stretch, tying the game 64-64 on a 3-pointer by Will Adler with 6:50 to go.
Butler would go more than three minutes without scoring and Neosho built its lead to eight points at 72-64 with 3:49 remaining.
Butler hit two late 3-pointers to get within two points at 80-78 and had the ball back with three seconds left. The Grizzlies had a chance to tie or win the game, but instead, a turnover took that chance away. Neosho made two free throws with one second left to ice the game.
The loss ended the career of five Butler sophomores, including Derrick Byrd, who led the team with 23 points, and Caelan Neal, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. He also had four assists. Two freshmen also were in double figures, with 18 from Semaj Hervey and 11 from Will Adler.