credit – Butler CC
The Butler men saw their season come to an end with an 88-86 overtime loss to Georgia Highlands in the first round of the NJCAA Tournament at the Sports Arena in Hutchinson.
The Grizzlies, who were the 14th seed in the tournament, finish the year at 29-4. Georgia Highlands was the 19th seed and advances to face No. 3 seed Southern Idaho in the Sweet 16 on Wednesday.
Butler trailed by seven in the first half, but got within a point at the break at 36-35 and then took the lead early in the second half after an offensive rebound and putback by Kyle Steward with 18:45 to go that made it 37-36.
Georgia Highlands led most of the game, but the two teams would trade the lead several times in the final five minutes. Lamar Wofford scored with 27.9 seconds left to tie the game and the Grizzlies held Georgia Highlands scoreless in the closing seconds to force overtime.
In the extra period, Butler would score first and then take an 81-76 lead after a 3-poiner by Kyle Steward with 3:39 left in the extra period. Butler would still lead by five after Jacolby Harris made 1-2 free throws with 2:41 to go.
Georgia Highlands would answer with back-to-back 3-pointers from Ty Toney to take an 85-84 lead with 1:44 left. Down by two, Butler would get a Lamar Wofford bucket to tie it 86-86 with 27.9 seconds to play.
The Butler defense locked down on Toney, but he passed off to teammate Donovan Harris, who was fouled with 2.1 seconds to play. He made both free throws. Butler got off a half-court shot as time expired, but did not draw rim.
Lamar Wofford led Butler with 23 points, while Kyle Steward had 18 and Chris Howell had 14. Steward had a double-double as he led the team in rebounds with 13. Wofford just missed a double-double with nine rebounds.
Butler was hurt by 25 turnovers, compared to 12 from Georgia Highlands. Both teams struggled at the free throw line with Butler going 24-37 (64.9 percent) and Georgia Highlands making 15-25 (60 percent). The Grizzlies were 30-64 from the floor (46.9 percent) but made just two of their eight 3-pointers.
The national tournament appearance is the sixth in school history for Butler, which won the national title in 1953 and reached the final four three times under coach Randy Smithson (1992, 1993, 1996). This is the second appearance under coach Mike Bargen (2010, 2015). The 29 wins is tied the fourth-highest win in program history. The Grizzlies have won 29 games in a season four times, the most recent being the 2010 team that went 29-7 and reached the national tournament.