VANDALIA — Three days after traveling to Sidney and taking command of the GWOC North race with a 58-51 win the Aviators hosted Tippecanoe and were handed their first loss.
Butler stuns Sidney
The Butler Aviators traveled to Sidney on Tuesday looking to earn an early-season statement win on the home floor of the defending Greater Western Ohio Conference North division champions while preserving their spotless record.
The Aviators overcame deficits of seven points twice in a hostile environment to edge the Yellow Jackets in a 58-51 win.
Sidney (4-3 overall, 4-2 GWOC North) led for most of the contest but wasn’t able to deliver the knockout punch. Butler hung around and after falling behind 41-34 midway through the third quarter looked to be in trouble.
Butler head coach DJ Wyrick said a key to the win was that every time the game seemed to be slipping away, the Aviators got a basket or stop to keep Sidney from pulling away.
“That’s what good teams do – Ryan Wertz hit a big three pointer at a key part of the game, Trey (Sanders) changed the game defensively the last couple of minutes, Braedon Norman sits for 10 minutes and then goes in and knocks down two free throws to seal the game. We had a lot of guys step up and I think our depth really helped us win this game.”
The Aviators instead responded with a 7-0 run to tie the score at 41-41 and then doubled up Sidney 14-7 in the final period to pull away late.
Nothing came easy for the Aviators, however.
Facing just their second true road game and a game that was hyped early, Butler came out tight. Sidney jumped out to an early 10-3 lead after an early three-pointer by Andre Gordon and five straight points by Ratez Roberts. The Aviators responded with baskets by Sutton skapik and an old-fashioned three point play by Michael Kreill to cut the lead to 10-8.
“I told them to be ready for a punch early on and unfortunately we took one,” said Wyrick. “But we found a way to pick it up keep it close, and use our depth down the stretch.”
Butler took its first lead of the game with 35 seconds in the first period on a basket by Kort Justice before Gordon responded with a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Sidney a 14-12 lead.
Justice, who led the Aviators with 18 points, said that the team knew Sidney would make an early run but hanging around and pulling out the win sends a message.
“It was a big game, we knew were facing a great team out there,” said Justice. “Everybody is on top of you here but we played like we had been there before and it showed at the end. We wanted to go out and make a statement tonight so teams know they have to respect us.”
Sidney scored first in the second quarter and moved out to a 19-14 lead, but Justice and Kreill kept the Aviators in the game. Butler tied the game at 26-26 with 1:40 to play in the half, but Sidney responded with four straight points to claim a 30-26 at the half.
Sidney appeared to have the Aviators on the ropes early in the third quarter after taking a 37-30 lead but six straight points by Justice kept the Aviators within striking distance. After tying the score at 41-41, Butler headed into the final quarter trailing 44-41 after a three by Gordon.
The Aviator defense took over from there.
A three-pointer by Ryan Wertz tied the score at 44-44 but defense was key as the Aviators took control. Kreill grabbed two steals midway through the final quarter that gave the Aviators a 50-46 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Kreill had perhaps his best game as an Aviator scoring 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, five assists, three steals, and three rebounds with just two turnovers.
Trey Sanders, who battled foul trouble most of the night, got a layup off an offensive rebound with 1:40 to play to lift Butler to a 54-50 lead and then Braedon Norman and Sanders were a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line in the final 38 seconds to preserve the win.
“You just have to stay focused,” said Sanders. “It’s not about me – the overal goal is to win. I came in and kept my head, something I’ve been working on all year. It’s a great feeling to help my team get the W.”
Balanced scoring is a hallmark of this Aviators team and Tuesday was no different. Wertz scored 8 points, Norman 7, Bryant Johnson 6, Sanders 4, and Sutton Skapik had 2.
“Every time they got down 7 they never looked rattled,” said Wyrick. “I think that comes from experience. We played young the last two years and now these guys have been tested and learned from those experiences.”
Aviators suffer first loss
VANDALIA — Butler took its first loss on Friday as the Tipp Red Devils came to the SAC and gave the Aviators a 58-55 loss.
Staring at a three-game deficit in the loss column for the GWOC North, Tipp instead kept the Aviators in reach. Butler fell to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in league play. Tipp improved to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in conference play.
Butler fell behind early as Tipp led 15-10 at the end of the first quarter and 25-22 at the half.
Butler outscored Tipp 12-8 in the third quarter to take a slim advantage 34-33, but Tipp outscored Butler 25-21 in a fourth quarter shootout.
Bryant Johnson had 14 points and 6 rebounds to pace the Aviators. Trey Sanders had 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 each of assists, steals, and blocks. Michael Kreill and Kort Justice each had 9 points, Bradeon Norman 6, and Ryan Wertz 4.
Butler made just 1-10 from three point range and shot just 12-19 from the free throw line while Tipp was 22-29.
Butler will return to action on Friday, Dec. 29 when they host Valley View at the SAC.
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.