Northwest Florida outlasts Butler County to upset the Grizzlies, 51-50
LUBBOCK, Texas – Georgia Gayle, a Central Florida signee, scored a team-high 17 points, and Northwest Florida State survived a 21/2-minute scoring drought to end the game and a furious Butler Community College comeback to outlast the Grizzlies, 51-50, in the second round of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championships.
Awa Trasi, who is signed by LSU, added 13 points in the win for the Raiders (26-5), who advance to the quarterfinals to face Trinity Valley Community College at 7 p.m. on Thursday after holding Butler 21 points below its season scoring average and to just 30.4 percent shooting from the floor.
“Our whole fundamental is defense. Defense wins games, so that’s our core,” sophomore Cece Mayo said. “We care about scoring but we know that with defense there comes offense. We surround our whole base on defense.”
The trip to the quarterfinals, however, didn’t come without trepidation and tense moments toward the end.
Northwest Florida went scoreless for the final 2:32 of the game after a 3-pointer by Cece Mayo put the Raiders up 51-46. From there to the end, Trasi and Leandra Echi both fouled out, and Butler (28-5) was able to take advantage.
After Awreona Ransom pulled Butler to within a possession at 51-48 on two free throws with 1:19 to play. After a loose-ball scrum in the Butler end of the court, both teams were whistled for technical fouls, and with 16 seconds left, Ransom hit a layup to pull the Grizzlies to within one.
Northwest Florida then turned the ball over on its next possession, throwing a cross-court pass out of bounds with 7.4 seconds left. Camille Downs got the ball on the left wing for Butler, but her deep, contested 3-pointer at the buzzer glanced off the backboard, and Northwest Florida escaped with the victory.
“To be honest, we had some personnel in there because of the foul situation and people fouling out, we’ve got people that aren’t ordinarily in the game at that spot,” Northwest Florida head coach Bart Walker said. “So, we had some poor, fundamental breakdowns on the way we defend. They did a great job of capitalizing on it.”
The Raiders appeared as though they were going to put the game away late when Gayle hit her fourth and final 3-pointer of the night from the left wing with 4:48 to play. But Butler clamped down defensively and got back into the game with a 6-0 run, getting a pair of layups from Downs.
But the Grizzlies were never able to close the gap completely.
“We’ve been in that situation a couple times before this year,” Butler head coach Mike Helmer said. “At (Hutchinson Community College) we were down four with 40 seconds and won. If we hold (Northwest Florida) scoreless we can have a chance and do it again, and we did that. We had our chances and it just, unfortunately, didn’t go our way tonight.”
Criste’On Williams led all scorers with 22 points and 11 rebounds for Butler. Mayo finished with nine points for the Raiders.
Northwest Florida came out of the gates and jumped on Butler early, scoring the first six points of the contest and finishing with 10 of the first 12 through the first four minutes. It took a while for the higher-seeded Grizzlies to respond, but they eventually did.
Down 15-8, Butler scored five of the next six points to pull to within three and trailed by just four at the end of the first quarter. Butler then opened the second frame with four straight points to tie the game at 20.
The Raiders, however, came right back with seven straight points started by a Gayle 3-pointer. But after pushing the lead back to seven, both teams went cold, with neither squad scoring for more than four minutes until Waters hit back-to-back buckets to pull the Grizzlies to within 27-24 at the intermission.
Butler struggled form the 3-point line, hitting on just one of 145 attempts, and that contributed to their 29 percent (9 of 31) field goal percentage for the first half.