GERMANTOWN — Coming off a week-long layoff, the Butler Aviators looked lethargic for most of the first half when they traveled to Germantown to visit a winles Valley View team.
After trailing by a 25-18 score at half, the Aviators outscored the Spartans 35-13 in the final two quarters to pull away for a 55-38 win. Butler senior Braedon Norman hit five three pointers that fueled a devastating 18-0 run over six minutes that spanned the third and fourth periods that finally put down any hope of a Valley View upset.
Butler improved to 8-1 overall and remained 4-1 in the GWOC North while Valley View fell to 0-8 on the season.
“I acted like a maniac at halftime and I hate doing that,” said Butler head coach DJ Wyrick when asked about the Aviators’ slow start – not their first this season.
“I questioned whether I should yell at them before the game. It’s a weird game. It’s Christmas break, we haven’t played in a week. Should I just yell at them before we start here? We laughed about it but I probably should have to be honest. We didn’t have a great shoot around today and we were just off.”
Off was right in a first half that saw the Aviators make just 8-0f-29 shots in the first half including just 2-0f-11 from beyond the three-point arc. Butler tied the game twice in the first quarter but point guard Michael Kreill picked up his second foul with 1:58 left in the period and the Aviators were forced to adjust.
The offense was no better in the second frame as Norman’s basket with 4:04 was Butler’s first field goal of the period. He hit his first three of the game two minutes later to cut Valley View’s lead to 21-16, but missed opportunities at the free throw line and scrappy play by the Spartans led to a 25-18 deficit at the half.
“This is a tough place to play,” said Wyrick. “It’s a small court, it feels like its 175 degrees in there, and when you can pack that zone in on a short court it is hard to get the ball inside. We struggled with that, and going 2-for-11 from three in the first half didn’t help.”
The Aviators came out with a new intensity in the second half and, despite a couple of misses at the rim early in the third quarter, kept Valley View from lengthening their lead.
Kreill got the Aviator offense rolling with a basket early in the period and followed that up with an old-fashioned three-point play. Kreill then got a steal and passed ahead to Tyler Montegue for a layup and the Aviators took their first lead of the game with 4:15 to play in the third period by a 27-26 margin.
Valley View responded with a basket to retake the lead at 28-26, but that was their last gasp thanks to Norman.
Norman scored 11 points, including three triples, over the final 3:30 to play in the third period to boost the Aviators to a 38-34 lead they would never surrender.
Norman opened the final quarter with a three which was followed by a basket by Kreill and a dunk by Bryant Johnson – off an assist by Norman – that gave Butler a 45-34 lead and forced a Spartan timeout with 6:51 to play.
“You can’t fault the way they responded in that second half,” said Wyrick. “They came out with energy, our press really gave us energy. We got some steals and then obviously Braedon knocking down 6 threes helps. We changed our mindset a little offensively in the second half. I told them to all five crash the glass and get out in transition. Everybody stepped up in the second half.”
Norman scored a career high 21 points while Kreill added 12 and Johnson had 8.
“I think this is the fourth game this year where someone has scored a career high,” said Wyrick. “He (Norman) was a totally different player tonight. He had five steals and was active in the press. He was very energetic and had a lot of enthusiasm and really picked up his teammates. He’s a captain and played like one when he was out there.”
Out of the timeout Norman connected on another three to fuel a 7-0 run and erase any doubt about the outcome.
The Aviators will have another seven day layoff before they return to league play on January 4 at Fairborn. Tip is set for 7:30 at Baker Middle School.
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.