Even as the Perry boys basketball team led by eight points entering halftime, Butler head coach Cervantes Boddy didn’t break a sweat.
When the final buzzer sounded, however, it was Perry’s bench that exploded with cheers while the Butler boys shuffled to the locker room with their heads down.
Mistake-ridden Butler (17-10) couldn’t overcome a lackluster first half as it fell 65-62 to Perry (20-9) at home on Wednesday night in the opening round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
“I think our youth finally caught up with us,” Boddy said. “The lack of execution. That’s where we went wrong.”
The Bulldogs exchanged baskets with the Panthers for much of the first quarter, but succumbed to a late push by Perry in the closing minutes of the half to trail by eight entering halftime.
“I thought that (the team) was nervous in the first half, so I said just calm down,” Boddy said.. “I know it’s the playoffs, but just calm down and play basketball. So that’s what we did.”
Butler exploded in the third quarter, going on a 15-4 run following consecutive layups from Ron Jones and Keynan White. The Bulldogs managed to gain the lead and lead by as much as nine points in the fourth quarter.
“I was on top of my game posting up,” said Jones, a senior forward playing in his final game wearing a Butler jersey. “It felt like we could take it, but I don’t know what went wrong.”
With 3:19 left on the game clock, the referees halted play to sort out discrepancies between the two scorebooks. When play resumed, Perry heated up, managing to pull within a point of the Butler lead.
And just like that, a Panther layup gave the team the lead with just less than 15 seconds left on the game clock. Perry went on to score the final four points to secure a trip to the second round of the playoffs to face No. 1 seed Eagle’s Landing.
Sophomore guard Don Coleman led the Bulldogs with 19 points, followed by Jones with 18. Butler was 20 of 29 from the foul line. Perry’s K.J. Smith lead all scorers with 22 points, including four 3-pointers.
For Coleman, it’s back to the drawing board.
“I just need to hit the weight room,” he said. “Work on my shots some more. I just need to be more of a leader.”