Butler Battles No. 1 Hutchinson to the End, Comes Up Short in Region VI Championship

Butler Battles No. 1 Hutchinson to the End, Comes Up Short in Region VI Championship

HUTCHINSON, Kan. – The Butler Grizzlies outplayed the No. 1 Hutchinson Blue Dragons for 39 minutes of the Region VI Championship at the Hutchinson Sports Arena on Saturday, but ultimately could not get the stops required to win the championship.

The Grizzlies (25-8) fell on Hutchinson's (33-0) home court in the region championship, 54-52.

The Grizzlies season came to an end in heartbreaking fashion with the loss as the Blue Dragon's Kiki Smith broke a 52-52 tie with a layup as just five seconds remained in the game. Butler's Maycee James missed a well-defended layup as time expired to close the game.

"We didn't make plays in the end," said Butler head coach Mike Helmer. "They made one more play than we did, and we just didn't get it done."

"Our kids played really hard. I was proud of all of them for the effort they showed. This was a special group of sophomores and is a group I will always remember."

"They (Butler) dominated the game," said Hutchinson head coach John Ontjes. "They outshot us and won the rebounding battle, but our kids grinded it out and found a way to win."

Butler outrebounded Hutch 36-32 and put up 22 more shots (23-65) than the Blue Dragons (17-43). The Grizzlies hit just two threes in the game, both courtesy of Randi Harding who paced Butler with 14 points. Hutchinson was 5-17 from distance. The Grizzlies also forced 20 Hutchinson turnovers to just 15 themselves.

It was apparent early that Butler came to play. The Grizzlies had an answer for all of Hutchinson's shots in the first quarter and left the period trailing just 13-12. The second quarter was similar as Hutch built a seven-point lead at 23-16 before the Grizzlies rallied to trim it to two at 25-23 with 35 seconds left in the half as Harding hit a triple. The Blue Dragons led at the half 27-23.

Just like the previous two region tournament games the Grizzlies played a strong third quarter, going into halftime and making needed adjustments. They won the quarter 15-9. Hutch's Monae Duffy made a three to give Hutch a 30-23 lead at the eight-minute mark but Butler outscored them 15-6 over the final eight minutes to enter the fourth quarter ahead, 38-36. Harding had five points in the quarter followed by Wallace and Brittanie Brickhouse with four each.

J'unti Franklin made a layup 45 seconds into the fourth quarter for Butler, putting them ahead 40-36. The two teams then went on a dry spell for the next three minutes until Hutchinson's Hailey Jackson made two free throws to break up the scoring drought. Jackson scored 12 points in the quarter to help will the Dragons to victory. Butler led 42-38 leading into a timeout at the 5:52 mark. Out of that timeout, Jackson scored eight points over the next 2:52, giving Hutchinson a 48-45 lead at the 2:55 mark. Her layup off a Smith assist with 1:27 left put Hutch up four at 52-48 as the heavy Blue Dragon crowd began to get louder.

James then hit a high arcing jumper to make it a two point game and following a turnover by Smith forced by Franklin, James converted on a layup to tie the game with just 23 seconds to play.

The Grizzlies used a timeout following that to set the defense up. Following the timeout it was apparent what Blue Dragon head coach John Ontjes' plan was. Give Kiki Smith the ball and let her try and find a hole in the defense.

With the shot clock dark the freshman guard dribbled around outside the three point line for about 12 seconds before finally converging on the paint after finding an opening. She got into the lane and lifted a layup over Wallace, who attempted to take a charge, and it went in plus the foul on the Grizzlies. Smith missed the free throw and Helmer used his final timeout.

James was unable to get a good look, missing a layup that was well guarded as time expired.

Wallace finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, James had nine points and five assists and Franklin pulled down eight rebounds to go with four steals.

For Hutchinson, Jackson had a team-high 15 points as well as five rebounds. Monae Duffy scored 12 and had eight rebounds and Kiki Smith scored 13, shooting 3-6 from three.


The Grizzlies see nine sophomores exit the roster with the conclusion of the season. Freddie Wallace and Randi Harding were named to the All-Tournament team.

Butler Grizzlies are supported by LASIK Omaha eye doctors and eye surgeons.