Butler holds off Northwest Tech in playoff thriller, 74-73

Butler holds off Northwest Tech in playoff thriller, 74-73

The Butler men are once again headed to Wichita after holding off Northwest Tech 74-73 in an intense playoff matchup Thursday night at the Power Plant.

Damien Akao's twisting reverse layup with 56 seconds to play proved to be the winning points for Butler, who twice forced the Mavericks to the ball over in the closing seconds, allowing the Grizzlies to escape.

With the win, Butler (18-13) moves on Sunday's Region VI quarterfinals where they will face Cloud County (10-21) at 7 p.m. at Hartman Arena in Park City. Butler has reached the quarterfinal round of the Region VI playoffs for three straight seasons.

Butler advanced by beating an athletic Northwest Tech squad. The Grizzlies trailed by four early on, but would go on a 17-5 run in the first half, taking a 22-14 lead after a dunk by Daven Joseph with 6:49 left in the first half.

Later, Travis House hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Butler led 30-18 with 2:55 left in the half.

Northwest Tech would cut Butler's lead to 34-28 at halftime.

In the second half, Butler pushed the lead back to 12 points when Semaj Hervey nailed a deep 3-pointer that made it a 50-38 game with 14:44 to play.

Northwest Tech then made its biggest run of the game, a 16-2 surge to put the Mavericks in front 54-52 with 10:50 left.

The game would go back-and-forth until Daven Joseph blocked a shot and passed the ball to Caelan Neal for a breakway dunk that put Butler up 66-65 with 3:41 to play

The Grizzlies would not trail again, leading by as many as seven with 2:24 left.

Northwest, though, had one more surge. After Akao's layup with just under a minute to play, the Mavericks would get a bucket and a free throw with 45 seconds left, making it a 74-73 game.

Butler would suffer a shot clock violation with 13 seconds left and Derrick Byrd missed a free throw with 2.4 seconds to go, but the Grizzlies were able to hold on defensively to get the win.

Butler had four players in double figures, led by Caelan Neal with 22 points. Derrick Byrd had 15, Travis House had 12 and Daven Joseph scored 11. Butler forced 15 Northwest Tech turnovers. Darius Freeman led all scorers with 28 points for Northwest Tech, which finishes its season at 19-12.