VANDALIA – A year after the Butler Lady Aviators handed Northmont its first loss ever in its new gymnasium, the Lady Thunderbolts looked for revenge as the longtime rivals met in the season opener for both schools.
Northmont took advantage of its size and experience and gave the Aviators its best shot with a 10-point lead in the first quarter, but Butler countered with a 9-0 run in the game’s final 40 seconds to claim a 55-50 win.
“I told the girls all week that this game would come down to the wire,” said Butler head coach Molly Bardonaro. “They are physical and aggressive and that can be a little intimidating. In the first half we didnt handle that pressure very well.”
Willow Knight lead the Aviators with 2o points fueled by a trio of three-pointers to lead all scorers. Brittney Petrosky was Butler’s second leading scorer with 16 points while Tyree Fletcher and Olivia Schoenherr added seven points each.
“I have a lot of confidence in my leaders,” said Bardonaro. “Brittney has something special and just doesn’t stop. She doesn’t let anything going on outside or inside the floor bother her. She’s a true leader and stepped up to take over the point and did a lot of good things for us. Willow is just a scorer. They shut her down defensively especially in the fourth quarter. Olivia, even though she wasn’t hitting her outside shots, she battled tonight. Those three stepped up when we needed it.”
Northmont eased out to a 15-5 lead before Knight drained her first three with 1:30 left in the first quarter. Petrosky opened the second period with a pair of steals that ended in layups that cut the T-Bolt lead to 21-18. A pair of free throws by Fletcher set the halftime score with Butler trailing 25-24.
“We cut our turnovers in half in the second half and talked about it being about team instead of one on one,” Bardonaro said. “At one point we were down 10 points in the first half and cutting it to one was huge.”
The Aviators took their first lead at 26-25 early in the third quarter, but it was short-lived as Northmont battled back to take a 38-33 lead heading into the final quarter.
Butler took its first lead of the fourth quarter with 3:26 left on a basket by Petrosky, but the lead would change hands two more times over the final three minutes.
Northmont held a 50-46 lead with 39 seconds left but would not score again. Olivia Schoenherr hit a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 50-48, and then the Aviators’ defensive pressure forced a T-Bold turnover on the in-bounds pass.
Fletcher hit a tough basket on the block to tie the game at 50-50, and then Butler’s pressure forced another turnover. Northmont was forced to foul and with 10.7 seconds left the Aviators reclaimed the lead on a free throw by Petrosky.
Knight and Abbie Schoenherr went 4-of-4 from the line in the game’s last seven seconds to set the final score.
Bardonaro praised her team’s poise in the game’s closing minutes.
“This group is special because a lot of them are new to the game,” she said. “They really listen and do what we ask. In game situations that really pays off. We called three timeouts in the last 45 seconds and and they listened, did exactly what we asked them to do and did it well. They stayed calm and out leaders came through.”
The Lady Aviators will return to action on Saturday as they travel to Miami East. Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.