LOUISVILLE — The Butler Bearettes took advantage of relentless defense and red-hot shooting to ease by Franklin County, 79-56, Saturday morning in the Louisville Invitational Tournament semifinals at Christian Academy of Louisville.
Butler took the early 3-2 lead on a 3-point shot by freshman forward Allison Just and didn’t look back, racing out to a 24-9 lead by the end of the first quarter and 47-22 at halftime.
Coach Larry Just’s Bearettes, 17-3, advanced to the LIT final Saturday night against Sacred Heart — who beat Anderson County 66-57 in the other semifinal.
Coach Joey Thacker’s Lady Flyers fell to 16-4.
Thacker likened the Bearettes to sharks out for blood, and his team’s poor shooting early in the game — from both the field and free throw line — only fueled Butler’s thirst.
“We just didn’t get out of bed,” Thacker said after the 10 a.m. game. “They are very, very talented, and they shot it really well right out of the gate. For whatever reason we didn’t make layups and free throws, and when you’re playing somebody that’s a legit top five team in the state, you better at least be able to do those things.”
The Lady Flyers shot just 29.2 percent from the field (7 of 24) and 43.8 percent at the free throw line (7 of 16) in the first half, compared to 50 percent from the field (16 of 32) and 88.9 percent (8 of 9) at the free throw line for Butler during the same stretch.
Franklin County shot better as the game went along, but Butler never cooled off. The Bearettes shot 51.9 percent for the game from the outside, including 11 of 20 from 3-point range.
Butler also out rebounded FCHS, 41-23.
“They did everything right,” said FCHS senior point guard Nannilena White of the Bearettes. “It stuck in our heads that we were all playing bad, and that made it even worse. They caused us to make a lot of bad decisions.”
All-state candidate Danielle Lawrence, a 5-foot-10 senior guard/forward, tallied 18 of her game-high 23 points in the first half to lead the way for Butler. Lawrence also had seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Thacker’s team clearly struggled to contain Lawrence, and that caused multiple problems.
“Lawrence got off to a really, really good start, and she’s so active in the high post that it causes some shooters to be open on the help side,” Thacker said. “And once we missed a couple of layups and free throws, we didn’t play with an extreme amount of confidence either.”
“She’s great,” Larry Just said of Lawrence. “She doesn’t get the credit she deserves. “I know she’s disappointed she didn’t get looked at as a Miss Basketball candidate, but I’ll take Danielle over any of those kids.”
Still, it was Butler’s constant defensive pressure that, arguably, caused the most problems for Franklin County.
“That’s as good a defense as we’ve played against,” Thacker said. “Their hands are so active, and they’re so long.”
“Our defense has gotten into the minds of a lot of people,” Larry Just said. “Just because you can’t bring it straight down and do everything that you’re used to doing in the half court.”
Butler stretched the lead to 32 points late in the third quarter, though the Lady Flyers never quit, out-scoring the Bearettes, 18-11, in the fourth quarter.
“I was proud of how we came back and competed,” Thacker said. “It’s not easy down here. If you want to go to the state tournament, you better play some games in Jefferson County.”
Sophomore guard Dasia Kilbourne led Franklin County in scoring with 15 points. Freshman guard Rebecca Cook had 11 points and a team-high six rebounds. Freshman guard Princess Stewart had 10 points and four steals, and sophomore forward Malaka Frank also had 10 points.
Franklin County plays at Bryan Station Tuesday night.
FRANKLIN CO. (56) — Dasia Kilbourne 15, Rebecca Cook 11, Malaka Frank 10, Princess Stewart 10, Nannilena White 6, Anna Arrastia 2, Kindall Talley 2.
BUTLER (79) — Danielle Lawrence 23, Janna Lewis 13, Allison Just 12, Tasia Jeffries 9, Jaelynn Penn 9, Breia Torrens 7, Madison Winebrenner 4, Micaiah Bowden 2.
>Franklin County advanced to Saturday’s semifinals with a 53-42 win over Bullitt East in the quarterfinals Friday night.
Kilbourne led FCHS with 17 points and five rebounds.
Frank had 11 points, six rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals; Cook 10 points and five rebounds; White nine points, six assists and four rebounds, and Stewart six points and eight boards.
Freshman guard Lindsey Duvall led Bullitt East with 24 points.