Knight's last-second shot gives Butler WBB win over Garden City

Lionel Tipton

EL DORADO, Kansas — After leading by as many as nine points, Butler’s women’s basketball team found them staring hard at their second loss of the season Monday night. 

Garden City had hit five three-pointers in the fourth quarter, wiped out a Grizzlies lead and clung to a 56-55 lead with just 6.1 seconds to play. 

But sophomore guard Skyla Knight refused to accept that, and when coach Mike Helmer said, “Sky, you’ve got to go,” she headed straight into the lane, and her fallaway, off-balance 4-footer fell and gave ninth-ranked Butler a 57-56 victory. 

On the final play, the Broncbusters (10-8, 9-8) were in a zone along the back line, so Knight said she knew what she had to do. 

Butler's Skyla Knight (1) attempts a last second shot in the 57-56 win over Garden City on Monday, March 23 at the Power Plant in El Dorado, Kansas. Knight finished with 15 points and the game-winning shot.

More:Butler men hit free throws, secure 69-60 win over Garden City

“My team’s down, we draw up a play in the huddle, either for me to drive or (sophomore post Tamara Nard) to get the lob,” she said. “We immediately noticed that they were dropping into a zone, so coach Helmer mouths to me real quickly, ‘You have to drive it,’ so I took it upon myself to lead my team to a victory.” 

Knight led Butler (16-1, 15-1) with 15 points and said the team is gradually putting its only loss behind it in picking up its third straight victory after an upset by Coffeyville on March 13. 

“I definitely think that as a team, we’re getting back in gear, but we still have a long way to go,” she said.  

It was a shock to the system when Garden City’s three-pointers began to fall late, Knight said.  

“Our defense is hands-up, active on ball, so I think we just need to keep that in mind when we’re playing at all times, because these teams are scoring (on us),” she said. “They are getting threes on us, so we need to have our hands up at all times.” 

It was a quick turnaround from Saturday’s victory over Independence, Helmer said. 

“I knew we were in trouble when they had five days to prepare for us and we had 24 hours (since Saturday’s game),” he said. “So, I’ll take that win and move on.” 

Another perplexing problem for Butler this year is the way the pandemic has affected scheduling, Helmer said. 

“In a normal, non-COVID year, we would have had preseason games, because of the showcase, and then we have 12 non-conference games,” he said. “So, we would be 22 games in before we even get to conference (play). We’re 17 games in, and we’re in the heat of the moment, like in the tournament time.  

“I’ve got to be more patient, even though it’s still the ‘beginning of the year’ – even though it’s not. But as far as games played, it is.  

“In my mind, it’s March and we should be playing perfectly. But in reality, it’s game 17 or whatever, and we’ve got a long ways to go.” 

Toughness is something that the Grizzlies need to display more, Helmer said.  

“We’ve just got to get tougher,” he said. “They were tougher than we were (Monday night), and that’s something we’ve got to get better at.” 

One bright spot for the Grizzlies was free-throw shooting. Butler hit 13 of 16 in the game, including four of six in the critical fourth quarter. 

In the final 30 seconds, Nard hit the first free throw and missed the second, but freshman Syncere Harrod rebounded the miss and was fouled with 28.3 seconds left. She hit both foul shots, giving the Grizzlies a 55-54 lead. 

“Here’s the thing I’m probably most happy about is Syn (Harrod), who made the two free throws to lead there at the end, she has struggled from the line for a while now. To set her up in a crucial situation like that and bury those free throws, that was huge.” 

But Garden City wasn’t finished. Elizabeth Matas-Martin laid the ball in with 6.1 seconds for a 56-55 lead, setting up Knight’s final heroics.