DODGE CITY Act like you have been there before.
That is what the Butler women’s basketball team is doing in returning to the Region VI Championship Game for the second straight year. While the venue has changed, Mike Helmer and his team’s focus has not.
"I’m a man of routine," Helmer said at a pre-tournament press conference.
Butler has turned winning into a routine at the Region VI, winning six straight games. The Grizzlies have matched Hutch’s six-game wining streak that spanned the 2017 and 2018 tournaments.
A win against Barton tonight can mark the longest winning streak in the tournament since Hutch won 16 consecutive Region VI games spanning 2012-2016, including three straight championships.
"We’re super excited about being here for the second year in a row," Helmer said. "You have to be locked in and ready to go and see if it is our moment to march into the national tournament."
Butler has done it by a committee. Whether it is Camille Downs, RaVon Nero or Tamara Nard, the Grizzlies are getting it done. With some returning and some transfers, Butler has worked to integrate them all into the program that has turned themselves into one of the best programs in the Jayhawk and the NJCAA.
"I don’t want to compare us to Hutch or Seward," Helmer said. "We’re BUCO and that’s what we’re going to be."
It’s worked. Despite some early season hiccups and going through a gauntlet of a schedule, Butler has turned some early season tests into late season success.
None more obvious than Butler’s win over Coffeyville to end the regular season. A tough offensive performance in the game, they never wavered. Butler hopped onto the back of Nero as they fought back. You could see the drive on their face.
"I’ve probably harder on this team than I have any other team," Helmer said. "It’s because it’s how good I Think they can be."
It started a decade ago with assistant coach Abby Fawcett playing at Butler. Her freshman year they won 14 games and one of the all-time leading scorers in Butler history helped the Grizzlies to a 20-win season her sophomore year.
"It really started with Coach Fawcett’s class," Helmer said. "They helped start this program to where it is today."
Since then, Butler has won at least 18 games, including eight straight 20-win seasons.
They are one win away from making the NJCAA Tournament for the second straight season. They are winning shirts saying "back-to-back."
"The Jayhawk has prepared us for a tough tournament," Helmer said. "Night in and night out, you’re playing in the toughest conference in the country."
While the shirts aren’t a prediction to the future, It could be if Butler takes care of business against Barton.