Penn-Trafford gives Butler scare in playoffs
Butler nearly had a repeat of last year's postseason debacle before the second-seeded Golden Tornado pulled out a 42-38 victory Tuesday night against Penn-Trafford in the opening round of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs at North Allegheny.
"I think it's mental," Butler coach Dorthea Epps said. "We played against that zone for the last three days now, and we knew what they were going to run ... it's kind of like what happened to us last year."
Butler also was the second seed in 2009, but Gateway pulled off a 45-43 upset in the first round after winning a play-in game just to get in the bracket. Penn-Trafford (14-10) came in the same way as Gateway had a year ago, after a victory Saturday against Penn Hills.
"No one thought we had a chance to win the game, but to tell you the truth, I think we kind of had them on the ropes," Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said. "We had our chances. We had some good looks at the end of the game. But nothing went down for us. And truthfully, they just made a couple more free throws than we did, and that was the difference in the game."
Butler, which has won 15 consecutive games, committed 23 turnovers.
In an effort to limit its mistakes, Butler (17-5) ran off the first 4:29 of the fourth quarter while stationed in a four-corners offense.
"That factored in a lot," Epps said. "We felt that, offensively, we were totally out of sync, not really looking inside. We hit some 3s, but you can't really live by that 3-ball playing against a zone, so we felt we needed to limit those possessions and shorten some of ours, so that's why we decided to run some clock."
Eventually, Penn-Trafford stole the ball, and Emily Brady, who led the Warriors with 14 points and nine rebounds, hit a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to one with 3:15 remaining in the game.
That was before Butler's Olivia Bresnahan, a Florida State recruit, hit a putback 12 seconds later for two of her 14 points. She then converted 3 of 4 from the foul line to ensure a Butler victory and a trip to the quarterfinals Friday to play Bethel Park.
In the first half, the Golden Tornado turned the ball over 13 times and shot 8 of 26 (30.8 percent) from the floor.
But Butler had decisive 16-11 edge in rebounding, and took advantage of its second-chance opportunities.
Penn-Trafford lost two starters for most of the game.
Senior B.B. McCourt picked up her third foul with 6:44 remaining in the first half and finished with three points. Senior teammate Valya Hobaugh left the game with 1:30 left in the second quarter with a right knee injury after colliding with a Butler player coming up the court.
"We don't think it's ligament damage, just maybe a hyperextension or a bruise," Giannikas said. "But it was really hard losing a starter and a player like her for the rest of the game."