CENTERVILLE — After suffering a blowout loss to the Fairmont Firebirds in last year’s sectional, the Butler Aviators looked forward to a rematch with the Firebirds in the sectionl semifinal. The matchups didn’t work to Butler’s advantage, however, as Fairmont jumped out to a 24-6 lead and eventually settled for a 64-53 win in the OHSAA Sectional Semifinal.
Butler finished the season 21-3 overall which tied the school record for wins in a season. In 100 years of Avaitor basketball, this group of players is just the third to win 21 games in a season.
Michael Kreill led the Aviators with 17 points along with five rebounds and three assists. Braedon Norman aso had 9 points and five rebounds while Ryan Wertz had 9 points and 4 assists. Fairmont’s Ryan Hall led all scorers with 19.
Butler lead early on a bunny by Quentin Glover but it was short lived. The Firebirds opened on a 15-6 lead and was out of sync on offense which forced Butler head coach DJ Wyrick call time. It didn’t help, as Fairmont went on a 9-0 run that carried into the second quarter and gave Fairmont its largest lead at 24-6.
“We struggled with matchups a little bit because when we went with size they were a little quicker than us and when tried to match speed they were a little bit bigger than we are,” said Wyrick. “Our guys competed, we played hard, we got some good looks at the rim and for whatever reason couldn’t finish.”
Slowly, the Aviator offense found life. A three-pointer by Kreill at the 4:00 mark of the second quarter got the Aviators to within 28-15 but Fairmont did just enough to keep Butler at bay. A three by Ryan Wertz got the Aviators within 13 at 33-20 late in the half, but Fairmont scored again to set the half time score of 35-20.
The Aviator defense clamped down in the second half and allowed Fairmont just 6 points in the third quarter. Norman, Wertz, and Kreill combined for 12 points, including a three by Kreill at the buzzer to cut the lead to single digits at 41-32, the first time since early in the game.
A no-call on an intentional foul was pivotal early in the fourth quarter. Trailing by 10, Butler’s Michael Kreill had a 2-1 break after gathering a long rebound. He was fouled from behind with no play on the ball with the intent to stop the play from advancing, which by rule should have been ruled intentional.
It wasn’t, and instead of two free throws and possession, the Aviators inbounded, missed a shot, then gave up two old-fashioned three-point plays and what could have been a single digit score ballooned back to 16.
“That was brutal,” said Wyrick.. “There was no play on the ball. He grabbed him to slow him down which is an intentional foul. That was a big swing because that’s two free throws and the ball back again and maybe we are looking at a different game. But there’s things we could have done differently throughout the game that could have changed things too.”
Butler’s defense was stout down the stretch but the Aviators could never get closer than 9 points in the final 4:00.
Following the loss, Wyrick spoke about the 10 seniors on this basketball team – the first senior class that Wyrick has coached for all four years.
“I don’t know what Butler’s going to be like without this group of seniors because they have been there all four years,” said Wyrick. “To be around a group of committed kids like that has been a blessing. I may coach the rest of my career and never be around a group of kids like this as far as their commitment level, their unselfishness, and their willingness to accept their role and play the game and play together. That’s something that’s hard to establish. You can preach it but unless you have kids embrace that and want it, that’s rare.“
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.