CLAYTON — Coming into the season the Butler Lady Aviators faced questions about how youth and inexperience would respond when facing varsity competition. On Monday, in their season opener at Northmont, that inexperience faced a stern test versus the size and experience at Northmont.
After jumping out to a 9-2 lead, the Lady Bolts applied pressure and forced Aviator turnovers that resulted in a 22-2 run over nearly 12 minutes that Butler could never recover from. Turnovers and lack of scoring opportunities ultimately led to a 56-26 win for Northmont in the season opener for both teams.
“Sometimes it just takes us a little bit to get going,” said Northmont head coach Bethany Kincer. “In scrimmages we have gotten going with our defense and that was the spark tonight. It got my girls playing a little faster and more together, and I thought we did a good job staying poised when they took the early lead.”
The Aviators couldn’t have asked for a better start. Butler jumped out to a 9-2 lead thanks to baskets by Tyree Fletcher, Abbie Schoenherr, and an old-fashioned three point play by Willow Knight.
Midway through the first period, sensing the game may be getting away from them, Northmont upped the defensive pressure and ultimately put the game away by halftime. Back-to-back baskets by Shalaya Heath cut the Butler lead to 9-7 and then a steal and layup by Kaitlyn McCrary gave the Lady Bolts a 10-9 lead to end the first period – a lead they would never relinquish.
“We knew coming in that this would be a tough one for us,” said Butler head coach Molly Bardonaro. “When you play a school this size, with their experience and depth.”
Bardonaro said her young team should expect to see pressure defense often this season.
“That’s going to happen all season long, if we get a lead pressure is going to come on us,” she said. “Northmont’s length and quickness isn’t something we will see all year so I’m glad to see it now so we can learn from it.”
The 8-0 lead to end the first quarter continued over two minutes into the second period until Knight hit a basket with 5:50 to play to cut the Northmont lead to 14-11. The Bolts then went on a 16-0 run to break the game open before Fletcher hit a shot with 25 seconds to set the halftime score at 30-13.
Northmont picked up where it left off to open the second half with a 9-2 run to build a 39-15 lead. A 6-0 run to open the fourth quarter gave the Lady Bolts their largest lead at 50-19 and again at 54-23 before setting the final score.
Northmont had a balanced scoring attack with 11 players getting points. They were led by Salena Roberts with 11 points while Camryn Nadir and Shalaya Heath each had 8.
“Overall, looking at the stats, it was a great team effort with multiple girls scoring,” said Kincer. “I’m glad to get the first win.”
Knight led the Aviators with 11 points and Schoenherr added six.
“I saw a lot of good things tonight, but I also think it was a rude awakening for some of the younger girls who need to step up into these roles,” said Bardonaro. “Most of us haven’t played together so we are going to take some bumps while we figure out who can do what.”
Northmont will return to action on Wednesday when they host Greenville. Butler will travel to Tecumseh on Wednesday. Both tip times are 7:30 p.m.
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.