"We were right at home," said Butler coach Cervantes Boddy, with more frustration than pride in his voice.
The Bulldogs erased the late 10-point deficit in less than two minutes with a 12-1 run to claim a 51-48 victory at home Saturday night.
The Bulldogs got off to a slow start in their first state playoff game at their new gym. The Bulldogs didn't score until Jeffery Archie hit 1 of 2 free throw attempts midway through the first quarter. Chris Washington's layup more than six minutes into the game marked Butler's first basket from the field, and the Region 3-AAA champion had to play catch-up after trailing 32-19 at halftime.
"I told them, 'First, you have to know if we lose, that's it,' " Boddy said of his halftime speech. "Then I said they had to quit crying and complaining about the calls and everything. Crying has never helped anyone do anything, and they needed to stop."
Stopping is just what brought the Bulldogs back into the game. The Butler defense put a stop to Dougherty's offensive production in the second half. The Trojans managed only four points in the third quarter, stuffed by a 12-0 Butler run.
"I think when we locked down on defense is what changed the game for us," Washington said. "It wasn't a pretty win, but it was a win."
Butler (22-7) still trailed 44-34 with 4:58 left when Washington, who had a game-high 18 points, came up with a clutch basket and foul for a three-point play. Jeffery Menefee kept the momentum going when he stole the ball, pulled up on a fastbreak and buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key. The reserve guard scored again on the next possession with a drive to the basket to close to within one, and Dan Lambert hit both free throws on a one-and-one to give the Bulldogs its first lead of the game at 46-45 with three minutes left.
Butler went 20 for 30 from the free-throw line, but hit 13 of 17 in the second half to seal the win. A last-second Dougherty 3-pointer at the buzzer didn't fall but gave the visiting team new life when Akeem Johnson fouled the shooter.
Joshua Lewis missed the first free throw, hit the second and never got a chance at the third thanks to a lane violation. A technical foul on Dougherty for arguing the call allowed Butler to add one more free throw for the 3-point victory.