Whitney's Defense Slows Butler and Stops Oakwood

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."

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