Originally created 02/29/04

What curse? Butler gets to semifinals



COLUMBUS, Ga. - Butler High School's Rickey McGhee had bad memories of his Bulldogs' last meeting with Baldwin.

The Braves won by two points in Milledgeville, Ga., in the only meeting between the Region 3-AAAA rivals.

But what McGhee remembered most was the Baldwin players' taunting after the game.

The second-ranked Bulldogs exacted their revenge in the Class AAAA south sectionals at the Columbus Civic Center Saturday night, rolling to a 67-58 victory and earning Butler a trip to the state semifinals Thursday at the Gwinnett Civic Arena.

The Bulldogs' opponent is undetermined, since inclement weather in north Georgia pushed the north sectionals back a day.

Butler won't find out who it'll play until Monday when the north sectionals conclude in Dalton, Ga.

Saturday night's win put Butler in unfamiliar territory.

The Bulldogs haven't played in the semifinals since winning a state championship in 1966. Wednesday night's win over Dougherty ended a string of five consecutive losses in the second round.

"Two years ago when we lost in the second round, a lot of people kept saying that Butler was in trouble," coach Rob Johnson said. "I tried to tell them we had better players coming up."

Butler (29-2) took control early and built double-figure leads, but Baldwin rallied and trimmed the deficit to 34-32 at halftime. The Bulldogs again built the lead as high as 11 in the second half, only to watch Baldwin cut the deficit to two again on a turnaround jumper from Martavius Adams, making it 54-52 with 3:29 left. But Baldwin got no closer.

"People said we were cursed," McGhee said of Butler's string of five straight losses in the second round of the state. "We broke the curse. It feels good heading to the final four."

Tyrese Harris led the Bulldogs (29-2) with 17 points, while Scott Edwards and Rickey McGhee scored 13 points. Levert Carter added 11.