The Butler Grizzlies trailed by as many as 18 points, cut the lead to four three different times, but ultimately fell in the semifinals of the Region VI tournament, 89-81, to the Hutchinson Blue Dragons, at the Tony's Pizza Events Center in Salina on Friday, in the 17th meeting between the two bitter rivals in the Region VI tournament and the first since 2017.
Hutch jumped out to a hot start, making seven of their first 11 shots. They built the lead to 18 with 8:55 left in the first. Butler was able to trim the lead to nine at halftime.
Every time the Grizzlies needed the shot, or the stop, they needed to complete the comeback, they just couldn't seem to get over the hump. And the Blue Dragons were able to make free throws to salt away the game in the end.
Butler was led by Issac Ondekane, as the big man gave the Grizzlies a sensational lift off the bench, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Jaden Okon matched him on the scoreboard, scoring 16 points against his former team, while Isiah Williams and Keyon Thomas both scored 15. The Grizzlies shot 40% from the field after a cold shooting start, as they made 46% of their attempts in the second half. Butler made five of their 15 threes, good for 33%. But the Grizzlies were plagued by turnovers, giving the ball up 14 times, and giving Hutchinson 21 points off turnovers.
Defensively, the Grizzlies allowed the Dragons to shoot 45% from the field, but held the Dragons to 28% from three point range. The Grizzlies outrebounded Hutchinson 44-38, led on the glass by Okon, who finished with 12 on the glass. The Grizzlies also forced eight turnovers, earning 12 points off takeaways.
With the loss, the Grizzlies' season will likely end at 23-9, they went 16-8 in conference play, and managed a 15-2 record at the Power Plant.