DODGE CITY, KANSAS ― Javaunte Hawkins hit a layup with 30.8 seconds remaining to give the Grizzlies a 98-96 lead. It would be enough for Butler to hold onto their first Region VI Championship appearance since 2010.
Butler’s defense sealed the game by not letting the Trojans get off a final shot and giving Butler the 98-97 win in overtime.
“I thought our guys made unbelievable plays,” Butler head coach Kyle Fisher said. “It really came down to our guys going out and making plays. It shows we have really strong character and a lot of toughness on this team.”
The Grizzlies are now 25-7 on the season have put themselves directly into the middle of an at large berth to the 2020 NJCAA National Tournament in Hutchinson.
“We’re in the conversation,” Fisher said. “We’re going to go out and not leave it up to a committee.”
Butler did the first part of that on Monday night inside United Wireless Arena. Time and time again, the Trojans answered anything Butler put up and it appeared that an early 30-21 lead would keep the Trojans ahead and the Grizzlies at bay.
They never quit. Butler fought back and eventually responded with a 7-0 run with 3:06 remaining in the first half to give Butler their first lead of the game, up 43-40.
Another Hopkins layup with 1:17 remaining in the half, putting Butler up 48-45 but the Trojans ended the half with buckets from Matt Mcfarlane and Demarcus Sharp as Colby led 49-48 at the break.
The Trojans continued their push from the first half and made it an 8-0 run, giving them a 53-48 lead with 17:55 remaining in the game. The Grizzlies fought back, countering with an 8-3 burst of their own, tying it at 56-all.
OH LOOK. There's Juwan White for three. Butler within 53-51 with 16:22 remaining. https://t.co/16RqC2t4qQ— Chuck (@ChuckChaneyBCTG) March 3, 2020
The Trojans as they have all season, used their three-point shooting to pull away from Butler. They hit back-to-back threes, along with a big-time dunk by Alexandere Fanchini gave the Trojans a 7-point lead with 7:02 remaining.
“I feel like we did a good job of coming together and staying poised,” Grehlon Easter said.
Easter, the sophomore transfer from Little Rock was everything and more for Butler on Monday. After going 1-of-14 and scoring only two points in the win over Neosho, Easter was that man who stepped up when Butler needed him most.
He finished with 28 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 12 of those in the second half and overtime.
“The plays you’re mentioning are winning plays by winning players,” Fisher said. “These guys don’t know how to quit.”
There’s still so much to prove for the Grizzlies. They’ve had their revenge tour of beating teams that have knocked them off. They’ve added Colby to the list of teams.
“We have 3 top 10 wins,” Fisher said. We have 5 top 25 wins. The Jayhawk Conference has prepared us for this.”
With less than five minutes to go, Butler made their final push. Marque English had the pretty finger-roll layup to pull Butler within five. Easter hit four free throws over the next minute to bring Butler within three.
Hawkins hit a three with 32.7 seconds remaining to tie the game at 85-all, and Colby followed it up with a timeout with 23.6 seconds remaining.
Shawn Hopkins blocked Eddie Davis’ shot with four seconds remaining and Hawkins shot rimmed off at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.
“I just went out and challenged him,” Hopkins said.
.@_MrHopkins blocks Eddie Davis' game-winning attempt and Javaunte Hawkins buzzer beater rims off.
FREE BASKETBALL FOR EVERYONE
Butler 85, Colby 85
In overtime, Colby’s offensive rebounding punished the Grizzlies. They had three offensive rebounds in the overtime period within the first three minutes of the overtime session and it’s a large reason why the Trojans led 95-90 with 2:09 remaining in the first overtime.
Hawkins hit a three with 1:30 remaining in overtime and then Hopkins picked the pocket of Joshua Edwards. Hopkins raced down the floor for the layup, giving the Grizzlies a 96-95 lead with 1:13 remaining in the first overtime.
“I gambled a bit,” Hopkins said of his steal. “I’m happy I was able to finish strong.”
Hawkins made a cut and a drive to the rim with 30.8 seconds left to give Butler the 98-96 lead for good.
.@JayMcBuckets gives Butler a 98-96 lead with 30.8s remaining in OT. pic.twitter.com/gdiQVAOlre— Chuck (@ChuckChaneyBCTG) March 3, 2020
Butler fouled Mcfarlane with 5.9 seconds remaining but the freshman missed the front end of the free throws.
Colby fouled, leaving Hawkins at the line but he missed both in an uncharacteristic way. The Grizzly defense stepped up. They refused to allow Sharp to get off a shot and to seal their first Championship appearance in a decade.
Butler had four players in double figures, including Easter. Hopkins had 19 points and eight rebounds. Juwan White had 14 off the bench and Hawkins had 16 points, with 11 in the second half and overtime.
Butler will now either play No. 1 Cowley or No. 5 Coffeyville for the Region VI Championship. Butler split with both of them in the regular season, winning against both on their home floor.
“The grind of the Jayhawk has prepared you for this quick turn around,” Fisher said. “We’ll be focused on whoever we play next and we’re not done.”