DODGE CITY, KANSAS Tamara Nard has talked about her confidence over the last couple of weeks. The Chicago native has really come out of her shell. She scored 33 against Neosho County a couple of weeks ago and had 22 in the quarterfinals against the same Neosho team.
On Monday afternoon, Nard was the difference for the Grizzlies and Seward County had no answer. The freshman was a large reason why the Grizzlies knocked off Seward County 70-65 for the second straight year in the Region VI Tournament. Last season it was in the Championship Game; this season in the semifinals.
Nard finished with 22 points on 7-of-9 shooting and pulled down 11 rebounds in the win over fourth-seeded Seward County.
"They can’t stop her [Nard]," Butler guard Tamra Nard said. "Every time we ran a play for her she did what she wanted."
The only time the Saints really found themselves in the advantage was in the first half when Nard was sitting with two fouls.
Butler jumped out to a 17-4 run with Nard on the court. Butler found themselves flying down the court, out-rebounding the Saints squad that sports multiple 6-footers.
When Nard went to the bench with two fouls, that’s when Seward closed the game in the first half. They ended the half on a 17-5 run, pulling within five at the break with the difference of Nard sitting in foul trouble.
"We had a group that was rolling tonight," Helmer said. "This is not about being fair. That group in the first quarter was on a roll and I did not want to sub them out."
Camille Downs helped Nard provide the ammo early in Butler’s outburst that saw them jump out to the aforementioned 17-4 lead to start the game. The two combined for 18 of the team’s first 20 points of the game.
"My teammates were motivating me," Downs said. "I had to slow it down and take deep breaths"
Nard finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Seward made their move at the end of the half with nard on the bench, cutting Butler’s lead to 34-29 at halftime.
Butler jumped out to a 13-3 run to start the second half and used Nard once again. She had seven of the 13 for the Grizzlies as Butler jumped back up 47-32 with 5:08 remaining in the third.
"having ‘T’ [Tamara Nard] come back in after half time," Downs said. "It was huge for us.
As Nard was fed in the post, the Grizzlies found themselves at the line and making the Lady Saints pay.
Nard went to the bench early in the quarter, Ayanna Smith hit a jumper at the rim to pull Seward County and Tianna Johnson scored back-to-back buckets, bringing the Lady Saints within 56-52 with 6:16 remaining.
Jelesa Gross and Maddy Willis-Rosa answered back as Butler had done all afternoon. They got to the line and made their baskets, pushing the lead back to an 8-point Butler advantage.
Nard, who had four fouls at the time, makes both free throws, giving Butler a 65-59 with 3:23 remaining.
The Grizzlies did their best to keep the Lady Saints from tying the game. Butler, after struggling to hit free throws in the second half, found themselves hitting their free throws.
Willis-Rosa came off the bench and scored eight points for the Grizzlies.
Butler hit 8-of-10 down the stretch to seal the game, sending Butler into the Championship Game against Barton on Tuesday night at 5 p.m.
"We don’t have to worry about at large bids or anything like that," Helmer said. "We are in a situation where we can control our own destiny."