Butler girls looking for another trip to postseason

| Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Butler's girls basketball team snapped a two-year playoff drought last season.

The Golden Tornado want to make sure they keep up that postseason trend.

However, Butler has a new-look team this year after graduating three starters. And, with only one senior, head coach Dorothea Epps has a young squad.

“Each game, we're trying to build on where we're at. Just learning the game is big for them, I think, and learning how to finish games,” she said. “I see a lot of positive things. I like their energy. I like that they will try to do whatever we ask them to do. I think that'll prove to be successful for this team.”

The Tornado got their first in-game lesson at the Penn Hills Tipoff Tournament. Butler dropped a 55-49 decision to the hosts in overtime to open the event.

“The first game I thought was a tell-tale sign of where we are and what we need to work on. I thought they played well in that first game — just a couple balls or foul shots here and there (were the difference),” Epps said. “All in all, I was pleased with the effort. It was a lot of the girls' first time starting or seeing any varsity time. It's a big-time jump from junior varsity and a big adjustment.”

The Tornado rebounded for a 52-12 win over Kiski in the consolation game.

“We were playing a Kiski team that lost several players, so it's hard to judge where we are really at,” Epps said. “By no means is it any knock on Kiski. They were just missing a lot of kids and had some injuries.”

Overall, it was an encouraging start for Butler.

“Our whole goal was to try to go and execute our game and work on things we know we need to work on. We still have some bugs to work out,” Epps said. “The weekend helped out the girls with confidence, especially the girls who haven't played a lot. It helped that we played a really good Penn Hills team.

“It's a growing process for these girls. They did a nice job. We're trying to figure out our identity with all these players.”

Julia Baxter, a returning starter, scored 19 points against Penn Hills and added 17 points against Kiski.

“She is really our first or second (scoring) option,” Epps said. “She has done a great job. She is a hustler. She is all over the court.”

Kalynn Callihan is a returning starter as well. However, she has been limited with a broken thumb.

“It's hard for her to execute, but she did a good job,” Epps said. “She hit some 3-pointers and has to help handle ball.”

Alyssa DiPippa, a junior, takes over point guard duties this year.

“She is now having to quarterback this team. She has done a nice job,” Epps said. “She is really growing into that position. She's doing very well, as far as leading them.”

Lauren Bresnahan, the team's lone senior, is a starter. Ronni Guiney, Danielle Hensel and Tiana Schaffner are competing for the fifth starting spot.

“We lost so much on the defensive end and scoring end, so we're just trying to find that combination and our identity as a team,” Epps said. “We have a lot of underclassmen that just aren't ready for this level of play. Overall, I am pleased with what they did at the tournament. We just know we have a lot of work to do.”

Epps is encouraged with her team's progress.

“I think their hustle is a strength. They play hard and they understand they have to stay in games (and not get in foul trouble). They are always going to go out and give 100 percent. Really, our weakness would be the experience of being on the floor in crucial times,” she said. “They are great girls. It's just a matter of working on execution and getting the confidence they need out there.

“I can see they are growing from what we did in the fall until now.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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