The Whitney High fans pretended to read newspapers during introductions of the Oakwood players at Tuesday night's Southern Section Smalls Schools Division semifinal basketball game at Chaminade High.
But a few of them couldn't resist a peek when Oakwood's high-scoring, high-soaring forward Mitchell Butler was introduced. It may have been the best look they got of Butler all night.
Facing a variety of defenses designed to stop him, Butler was hounded all over the court.
The 6-4 sophomore still scrapped and muscled for 25 points and 13 rebounds, but Whitney defeated Oakwood in overtime, 50-49. In Saturday's championship game, Whitney plays Hesperia Christian, which defeated Leffingwell Christian on Tuesday, 67-57.
"Butler's a great player," Whitney Coach Bruce Carlisle said. "We ran a 1-3 zone with a man chasing him, we ran a 2-1-2 with a man fronting him and a man behind him, and we ran a triangle-and-two at him. He's a stud. He can play ball."
That is when he gets the ball, which was a problem at times against Whitney (23-2).
With Butler bottled up and held to nine first-half points, Oakwood (20-6) had to look elsewhere for offense and trailed, 26-23, at halftime. Guard Scott Marshall, left open because of the attention Butler was getting, hit 4 of 6 first-half shots and 6 of 9 for the game to finish with 12 points.
Otherwise, it up to Butler, and he responded in the fourth quarter when it appeared Oakwood was finished. Trailing, 42-34, heading into the final period, Oakwood came to life behind Butler, who scored 10 of the Gorillas' 13 points in the quarter. He hit a 12-foot jump shot to pull Oakwood to within 47-45, then moments later rebounded his own miss to tie the score at 47 with 1:30 remaining.
Neither team could score again in regulation, and Butler sank a short jumper to put Oakwood ahead, 49-47, early in the three-minute overtime. James Justice, who led Whitney with 19 points and eight rebounds, knotted the score with a driving basket.
A free throw by Matt Bowley put Whitney up, 50-49, with 1:09 to play, and Butler was called for charging 19 seconds later.
Oakwood still had a chance to win, but Eric Leddel's desperation 35-footer fell short at the buzzer.
"The people got their money's worth, didn't they?" Oakwood Coach Roz Goldenberg said. "I never thought we'd go this far, so everything is gravy."