With his veteran players often finishing his sentences in huddles, Thomson coach Michael Thomas knew they were on the same wavelength when it came to their halftime lead against Butler: It wasn’t safe.
The Thomson boys basketball team, up as many as 15 points, withstood a charge from Butler, winning 68-60 Wednesday night at Josey in the quarterfinals of the Region 3-AAA Tournament.
With the result, Thomson is assured of a state playoff appearance and Butler – the region champion a year ago and a state finalist – saw its season end.
“This team has been mentally tough for a while now,” Thomas said. “If you’re with me for four years, you have to be mentally tough.”
Ronkeem Sallywhite, who made back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter to stretch Thomson’s lead to 29-16, led all players with 23 points.
But Anthony Moss put in perhaps the biggest field goal of the game when he scored on a layup after a Butler turnover near midcourt with his team up only 60-58.
Moss’ basket came after Butler’s Jeff Menefee drilled a long 3-pointer as part of a 16-7 run. Menefee and teammate Jeff Archie both connected on three 3-pointers and combined for 25 points.
Though Butler did remain close on Dan Lambert’s two free throws to make it 64-60, two important rebounds fell into Thomson’s hands.
First, after Butler missed a crucial shot, Jamontae Beard came down with a defensive rebound and called a timeout.
After Butler fouled and Sallywhite missed two free throws – a rarity on a night when he made his first eight attempts – Dwayne Williams grabbed the second huge board following the second clank. Williams hit two foul shots after getting fouled.
Williams then punctuated Thomson’s win with a slam right before the buzzer.
“It was a lack of execution,” Butler coach Cervantes Boddy said. “This time of the year, it’s about who wants it more. They wanted it more than we did.”