MATTHEWS Butler High’s boys basketball team, ranked No. 1 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll, made history Thursday night.
The Bulldogs beat rival Independence 76-69 in front of a sold-out crowd at Butler and ran their record to 18-0. That ties the best start in school history.
“It was like 100 degrees in the gym and what a great atmosphere,” Butler coach Myron Lowery said. “It’s such a big win. No. 1, it gives us the advantage in the conference, and obviously we want to hold our home court advantage, and we want to stay No. 1 for the duration. It’s not a goal right now, but since we’re there, we might as well embrace it and not run from it. And the kids have been really good about not getting complacent or big-headed. We haven’t talked about being undefeated and we talk about the things we do well and things we need to do better.”
Butler (18-0, 6-0) led No. 4 Independence (12-4, 3-1) all game. After a free throw early in the fourth quarter, Butler established its largest lead -- at 52-39. But Independence then caught fire. After scoring 39 points in the first three quarters, the Patriots scored 30 in the fourth. For the game, Robert Bonar (20 points), Matthew Statitle (13), Matthew Smith (11) and Chea Johnson (11) picked up the scoring slack for Independence on a night when 6-10 Temple recruit Justyn Hamilton, a top 10 N.C. recruit in the class of 2017, was limited to six points.
“Jah’lil Carter did a great job on him,” Lowery said. “We limited his touches and Jah’lil boxed him out and kept him off the boards. It was a combination of everything.”
Butler got 16 points from Gerrale Gates and 10 each from Zane Rankin and Tarique Stowe, but Stitt was the hero Thursday.
Lowery said Stitt, normally a starter, hadn’t been playing well, and Lowery suggested that the Bulldogs start DJ Little in his place and let Stitt come off the bench and give his team a spark. He responded with a career-high 20 points.
“He led us tonight,” Lowery said. “We started DJ and Omega said, ‘Hey this is the spark I need. I’ll do whattever I have to do.’ He was special.”
So was his team.
↑Lincoln Charter girls trio: Katie Baich (14 points, four rebounds, three assists, two blocks), Jasmyne Campbell (12 points, nine rebounds, five steals) and Felicity Fields (11 points, four steals, three assists) had big games in a 48-39 win over Bessemer City.
↑Eric Evans, Grace Academy: 18 points, six rebounds, three steals in a 70-32 win over Carolina Christian.
↑North Gaston boys: won three of their past four games after Thursday’s tough win over South Point.
↑Lorelei Roper, Charlotte Catholic girls: 11 points, 21 rebounds, five blocks in a 35-32 win over West Meck.
Thursday’s #BIG5 Performers
Trel Mclean, Bessemer City: game-high 31 points in a 93-69 loss to No. 16 Lincoln Charter. Kody Shubert had 28 for Lincoln (14-2).
Tommy McNeal, North Gaston: Career-high 27 points in a 63-59 win over South Point. North Gaston outscored South Point 27-8 in the third quarter after trailing by seven at halftime. Blake Zieske led South Point with five 3-pointers and 18 points.
Omega Stitt, Butler: game-high and career-high 20 points as No. 1 Butler held off No. 4 Independence 76-69.
Sage Surratt, Lincolnton: 38 points in a 77-71 loss to West Caldwell. Fred Patterson had 21 for West Caldwell.
Bryant Thomas, South Mecklenburg: 22 points, 13 rebounds, six blocks in a 43-38 loss to Olympic. Jalen Harris had 11 for the Trojans.
Thursday’s Girls Roundup
No.3 Hickory Ridge 68, Concord 24: Sherise Jones had 12 points and 12 rebounds in an easy win for unbeaten Hickory Ridge (14-0, 9-0 South Piedmont). Jiera Shears chipped in with 10 points, five steals and four assists. Concord fell to 4-11, 1-9.
No. 16 Myers Park 50, Garinger 29: Myers Park (9-5, 4-0 Southwestern 4A) won its fifth game in six tries, limiting Garinger to five points in the first quarter, five in the third and five in the fourth. Jasmine Sanders had 16 for Garinger (2-12). Myers Par got 12 from McKenna Haire.
Northside Christian 60, Gaston Christian 30: Eleah Parker, a Penn recruit, had 23 points, eight rebounds, seven blocks and three assists. Teammates Bailey Stinson (12 points, four assists, four steals, four rebounds) and Morgan Broadnax (10 points, six rebounds, four steals) had strong games for Northside.
Thursday’s Boys Roundup
No. 12 Hickory Ridge 57, Concord 54: Hickory Ridge (11-3, 8-1 South Piedmont) avoided an upset, getting 11 points from Cameron Wimbish and 10 from Darian Bell. Jacob Irby had 11 for Concord.
Myers Park 64, Garinger 46: Zailan Peeler had 21 points, John Ingram had 15 and James Ferguson added 12 for Myers Park (9-5, 2-2 Southwestern 4A). The Mustangs have won six of their past seven games.