The Butler Grizzlies survived a furious Cowley Tiger second half comeback as Jaden Okon hit a dagger three with the shot clock expiring as they beat the Tigers, 59-52, in the final game at the Power Plant this season, to advance to Salina and the Region VI semifinal game on Friday.
Okon was a star for the Grizzlies. He finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, and was 9-11 from the field. He got the crowd rocking in the second half with a voracious putback dunk and finished the game off when the Grizzlies were up by just three with time expiring.
"Jaden just torched them around the rim and obviously in a game where we didn't shoot the three ball well at all, we needed all those easy baskets. Jaden played with a relentless motor." Head coach Kyle Fisher said.
The Grizzlies led by as many as 13 in the second half, but Cowley would not go away quietly, as they took a 48-46 lead with 7:25 left in the contest after going on a 14-2 run. But the Grizzlies just made enough plays down the stretch, and they cemented the victory with late free throws from Eden Holt who was 4-4 from the charity stripe.
"I thought we played with a lot of energy," Fisher said. "At the end of the regular season, we didn't have that. We got worn down through a schedule that included five games in eight days. When it got hard there in the second half, we never melted, we never folded."
Marque English was the only other scorer who finished in double figures, as the Pittsburgh native finished with 11. But the offense was hard to come by for the Grizzlies, as Butler finished just 33% from the field and 17% from three point range. Okon's three at the end of the game was the only three that the Grizzlies made in the second half.
"It's March. It's hard to win in the regular season in this league, it's especially hard to win in the postseason. There are no secrets. A lot of it comes down to just toughness and heart and discipline." Fisher said.
The Grizzlies improved to 23-8 on the year. They will head to Salina for the semifinal against old rival Hutchinson at 7 pm on Friday night.
"Hutch is a great program, they've got a great coach, it's a storied rivalry game. I thought we played pretty well. A big thing we didn't do when we played them was finish. We didn't make shots. So we're going to have to play stronger."