TROY — Sometimes its good to get a monkey off one’s back, and that’s exactly what Butler head coach Molly Bardonaro was thinking on Saturday after her Lady Aviators knocked off Edgewood in the opening round of the Troy Sectional Tournament by a 49-45 score.
The win advanced the Aviators into a sectional semifinal versus Fairmont (15-8) on Tuesday and marked the first post-season win of Bardonaro’s career.
“It really feels great to win a tournament game,” said Bardonaro. “Willow (Knight) has been through it too, I took over when she was a freshman and she wanted this win more than anybody. She really got the girls motivated and ready to go. Before the season, we said winning a tournament game was one of our top three goals. Now we can prep for a second game. We have 15 wins – I’m so proud of this group.”
“This couldn’t feel any better,” said Knight. “With the support system we have, the bench energy, the floor energy, we wanted this more than ever. To come out and win in my senior year is an amazing feeling.”
Tyree Fletcher led the Aviators with 17 points, Knight had 11, and Abbie Schoenherr had 9. Gracie Price added a pair of three pointers for 6 points, Jacie Dalton scored 5, and Rachel Burton had 1.
The game marked the third time in four years that the Aviators had faced the Cougars while coming up just short of a win in their previous games.
Saturday’s contest was a game of runs. After falling behind 18-13, the Aviators switched to a zone defense and ended the first half on a 17-2 run to take a 30-20 advantage at half.
“They (Edgewood) are very well coached and very consistent,” said Bardonaro. “They don’t rush shots and that kind of worked against us at the beginning – we just aren’t used to playing that style. Once we switched to zone and honed in on certain players it worked for us. We had practiced that all week because we thought we might have to resort to it.”
Edgewood countered with a 12-3 run of their own to open the second half to cut the Aviator lead to a single point. The Cougars had three possessions where they could have regained the lead, but Butler’s defense stood tall and turned the Cougars away each time.
Butler got out to a seven point lead midway through the final period, but Edgewood’s full-court pressure bothered the Aviators who hit enough free throws down the stretch to hold the Cougars off.
“We told them every dead ball, every time out, that the score was 0-0 and we couldn’t assume because we were up 10 that things were going to go our way,” Bardonaro said. “The girls buckled down, played good defense, and hit big shots at big moments.”
Knight said defense is the key to moving forward.
“Our defense is what will keep us in this,” she said. “Sometimes our shots don’t fall, we don’t get the calls we want, but our defense, if we keep moving and talking like we did today, it can get us pretty far and do amazing things.”
Butler will face Fairmont on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Troy High School.
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.