WAYNESBORO, Ga. --- Valentine's Day 2008 will be remembered by a few girls as the day the Butler wall came down.
The Lady Bulldogs earned their first state playoff trip this century with a carefree 56-36 stroll through Thomson on Thursday in the Region 3-AAA tournament at Burke County High School.
"I've been teaching at Butler 13 years and I can't recall the last time our girls made the state playoffs," Butler coach Keisha Stewart said.
"I want to say 13 years, but it's been at least 10 years since our girls made the state."
Thomson (4-18) held up the way a daffodil would through a stampede of hungry Bulldogs.
"We talked about what happened last year at the region tournament," Butler senior Tracey Flowers said. "We talked on the bus ride up how we were supposed to beat Richmond Hill last year to go to the state playoffs. But we didn't. So it was a good example of making sure we didn't overlook this team and miss out on the state playoffs two years in a row."
Stewart harped on that point.
"We were worried," she said. "This was the third time we played Thomson. Our last game with them was close. That three-time jinx had us thinking. Even though we won the way we won, that still doesn't silence a good thing for our program in making the state playoffs tonight."
Butler (19-6) faces Hephzibah in the first Region 3-AAA semifinal at Burke County this afternoon.
"It will be the third time for us with Hephzibah," Stewart said. "It will be a challenge but we plan on stepping up to that challenge. We're planning on Miss (Tracey) Flowers getting her team up, putting them on her back and giving Hephzibah a big run tomorrow."
Shameka Carter led Butler with 16 points. Freshman point guard Ashley Watts had 12. Flowers had eight along with her usual all-area effort on both ends.
Thomson still took an early 5-0 lead despite the warnings about not overlooking a four-win team.
"They just had too many athletes," Thomson coach Eric Rogers said.
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org