Butler Gets Gutsy Win at Dodge City

Butler Gets Gutsy Win at Dodge City

DODGE CITY, Kan. – Missing arguably their best player, No. 22 Butler came away with a gutsy 84-76 victory over Dodge City at the Student Activity Center on Wednesday night.

Jamichael Stillwell, Butler's starting forward averaging 12.9 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, was forced to miss Wednesday's game due to an illness but several Grizzlies (19-5, 14-4 KJCCC) stepped up in his absence to help get the road victory at Dodge (9-16, 7-12), something Butler had not done since 2018.

"Without Jamichael's presence inside we needed some guys to step up," said head coach Kyle Fisher. "I'd say this is a gutsy win. We came out flat in the second half on the road, but our defensive effort helped us get this win."

Christian Richardson got the starting nod in Stillwell's absence and totaled 17 points and eight rebounds. He has scored in double figures in four of his last five games while pulling down 8+ rebounds in three straight. Kaleb Washington finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, also having to bump around down low more to help out.

"It was good to see Kaleb come away with 10 rebounds and do some dirty work down low," Fisher said.

The Grizzlies shot an impressive 54.5% (18-33) from the field in the first half, getting out to a 44-35 lead at halftime. Washington had 10 points and seven rebounds in the first half alone while Richardson had eight points and six rebounds.

The second half is where things got interesting as Dodge City came out of the locker room scoring the first nine points of the half to tie the game 44-44. Conq forward Avnoor Bhullar scored seven straight points including a three at the 18:23 mark to tie the game at 44.

Butler's Jaquez Thornton and Washington countered with layups on back-to-back possessions before Dodge City's Chevalier 'Ice' Emery knocked a three down to make it 48-47. Emery led all scorers with 25 points, shooting 6-14 from deep.

Emery proceeded to hit two more threes over the next five minutes, also adding in a jump shot and two made free throws with 11:18 to play, putting the Conqs ahead 63-61.

That's when Butler shifted Amare Haynie over to guard Emery, and Haynie flourished in the role as Emery scored just three points over the final 10 minutes of the game with Haynie guarding him on and off. Haynie's defensive presence showed when he grabbed back-to-back steals at the 7:45 mark, both leading to Butler baskets as they took a 67-67 lead.

"Amare Haynie probably wins the game for us in the second half with his basket and two steals," said Fisher. "He did a great job on Emery, their best player, with his consistent defensive effort."

Dodge jumped back out to a 70-69 lead with 7:13 to play when Jackson Schwartz hit a three, but it was the last lead they held in the game. The Grizzlies closed out the game outscoring Dodge 15-6 over the final seven minutes. The Conqs cut the Grizzly lead to one at the 3:19 mark as Bhullar knocked down 1-of-2 free throws but on the next Butler possession Thornton found Washigton on a nice pass to the block and Washington converted a contested layup to push the lead back to three. Dodge City then came within four at 78-74 with 1:21 to play but Thornton was sent to the free throw line three times over the final minute, shooting 6-6 to seal the deal for the Grizzlies.

Thornton led Butler with 18 points off the bench, also adding seven assists, five rebounds and five steals.

"Thornton is a winner," said Fisher. "He tries to do all the right things. He gives us a spark and does whatever we ask him to do. Having his energy and pace on the road is key. He is consistently talking to his teammates and keeping guys organized."

Deuce Drake finished with 13 points and three steals, his third consecutive contest scoring in double figures.

Bhullar added 16 points and eight rebounds for Dodge City. Schwartz had nine points and six rebounds.

After shooting a conference-high 55.7% from the field in the win over Garden on Saturday, Butler shot an impressive 55.2% (32-58) in the win at Dodge. They held the Conqs to 42.9% (27-63) shooting but Dodge City did knock down 10 threes (10-28).

Butler returns to action on Saturday at 4 p.m. when they take on the No. 15-ranked Hutchinson Blue Dragons (21-3, 16-2) at the Sports Arena.

"They're playing really well," said Fisher. "We'll have our hands full trying to go win in the Sports Arena Saturday."