PARK CITY, Kan. — The Butler women are moving on to the Region VI championship game after a thrilling 61-60 come-from-behind victory over No. 8 Hutchinson Monday afternoon at Hartman Arena.
Jalise Smallwood's free throw with 0.6 seconds remaining was the difference, lifting the Grizzlies into the finals.
Butler (27-4) will face No. 2 Seward County (30-2) at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday from Park City. Seward defeated Barton in Monday's other semifinal, beating the Cougars 63-58.
The Region VI title appearance will be Butler's first since 2014 and the fifth in program history. Butler will be seeking its first Region VI championship.
The Grizzlies led Hutchinson early after a 3-pointer by Taylor Birch made it a 5-3 game with 7:47 left in the first quarter.
Hutchinson dominated the rest of the period, putting up 26 points and doubling up the Grizzlies 26-13. The Blue Dragons sunk five 3-pointers in the quarter.
Butler got hot starting the second quarter, going on an 11-2 run with a 3-pointer from Kyla Callins and two straight 3's from Birch. The Grizzlies continued to surge and after Smallwood scored with 2:26 left in the first half, Butler led 30-28.
Tied at 32-all at halftime, Butler struggled to score in the third quarter and trailed by as many as seven. Awreona Ransom scored a bucket with 2:54 left in the quarter to started an 8-0 Butler run. When Camille Downs drained a 3-pointer with 56 seconds left in the quarter, Butler was up 42-41.
Hutchinson led 43-42 after three quarters, but Butler started getting the ball into the paint in the fourth quarter and built a 51-45 lead after Criste'On Waters made a pair of free throws with 5:23 to go.
Butler still maintained a 56-54 lead with two minutes to play, but Hutchinson scored six straight on a bucket and four free throws, going up 60-56 with 1:07 left.
The Blue Dragons would not score again. Butler got a bucket from Kyla Callins with 56 seconds left, and after getting a defensive stop, Jalise Smallwood was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound. Smallwood made both free throws with 21 seconds remaining to tie the game.
Butler would stop Hutchinson defensively and get the ball back with 8.1 seconds to play. After a timeout, Smallwood drove to the rim and drew a foul with 0.6 seconds remaining. Smallwood missed the first free throw but made the second. Following a Hutchinson timeout, the Blue Dragons failed to get a shot off on the other end.
Callins led Butler with 15 points, while Birch had 12 and Smallwood had 11. Butler made 20-of-26 from the foul line, with Smallwood hitting 9-of-11 free throws. Camille Downs had eight rebounds to lead the Grizzlies.
Hutchinson was led in scoring by both Makayla Vannett and Jada Mickens, who scored 14 each.
NOTES: Butler picked up its first Region VI playoff win over Hutchinson, improving to 1-3 all-time... Butler improved to 5-4 in Region VI semifinal games (1992, Barton; 1993 and 1996, Independence; 2014, Hutchinson).