VANDALIA – The Butler Aviators came into the 2016-17 basketball season having lost 22 straight conference games and a 6-40 overall record the past two seasons.
On Friday, a dramatic 60-58 overtime victory over Tippecanoe not only guaranteed the Aviators their first winning season since 2011-12 but left the Butler at 7-8 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference North division, good enough for a third place finish in the six team division.
“We came out flat, maybe a little hungover from Tuesday,” said Butler head coach DJ Wyrick referring to his team’s upset win over GWOC North leading Sidney on the road. “We had an awful practice, our midset wasn’t right, and to compound it the tournament is coming up and we have the Stebbins game. We just won a huge game and we just weren’t thinking about Tipp, a team that plays with discipline and fights hard. They play good defense and play a good scheme.”
The Aviators have now won eight of their last ten games to lift their overall record to 12-9. Butler will close out the regular season by hosting Valley View on Saturday at 7 p.m. before facing Stebbins in the opening round of the sectional tournament.
Miles Joiner scored 26 points to pace the Aviators including seven straight in overtime that lifted Butler from a two-point deficit to a 56-51 with 1:37 left in overtime. Tyler Burley had 19 points.
“Tyler pretty much carried the load in the first half,” said Wyrick. “Everyone knew he was locked in and wanted to win. We are lucky we have someone like Miles who can take over a game like that. Not many teams do. Those were big-time shots, big-time plays.”
The two teams were tied at 13-13 after one quarter, and Butler edged out to a 29-24 lead at half. Tipp cut into that lead in the third period and trailed 40-38 heading into the final quarter and took the lead late in the final period.
A late turnover gave Butler a chance to win the game with just eight seconds remaining, but a short baseline jumper by Bryant Johnson rimmed off at the buzzer sending the game to overtime tied at 49-49.
Tipp took the first lead at 51-49, but Joiner took over and the Aviators hit enough free throws to maintain the lead. Tipp hit a three with just over two seconds left to set the final margin.
Also scoring for the Aviators was Michael Kreill with nine, Johnson with four, and Trey Sanders with two.
“We are learning to win games in different ways,” said Wyrick. “Against Sidney we had the lead pretty much the entire game. Here we had the lead, gave it up, and had to battle back.”
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.