Butler High had its chances to advance to its first state championship game Saturday in the N.C. 4A Western Regionals, including a point-blank shot with 13 seconds left in a tie game, but the Bulldogs missed its shot to lead and Southwest Guilford took advantage.
Cooper Cunningham nailed a corner 3-point shot, right in front of his team’s bench, with 1.8 seconds left to lift the Cowboys to a 61-58 win and end Butler’s unbeaten season.
Southwest Guilford (27-3) played zone most of the game and the bigger Bulldogs worked out to leads of as many as nine points, but in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys began to pick up with a full-court man-to-man scheme, and Butler seemed to flinch a little. In the quarter, Southwest Guilford outscored Butler 27-15.
A Bulldog 43-36 lead to start the quarter was gone by the time Kam Langley’s steal and layup gave Southwest a 53-52 lead with 4:13 to play. Butler got its final lead with two minutes left on a layup by Jah’Lil Carter, but the Bulldogs wouldn’t score again – and Cunningham would make the biggest shot of his life.
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Three who mattered
Jah’Lil Carter, Butler: 20 points, seven rebounds, two assists. He made 10-of-13 shots and was virtually unstoppable inside.
Kobe Langley, Southwest Guilford: sophomore guard committed to Virginia Tech had 15 points and three rebounds.
Zane Rankin, Butler: 13 points, five rebounds and three assists, and was solid on defense.
▪ Southwest Guilford’s three best players live under the same roof. Twins Kobe and Keyshaun Langley are sophomore Virginia Tech commits. Senior Kam Langley is an N.C. A&T signee. Their final game together will be for a championship. Should be a pretty neat week for those three.
▪ Butler guard Tarique Stowe did a masterful job handling pressure from a team that essentially deployed five quick guards. When Southwest abandoned the zone, which wasn’t really working, the Cowboys attacked the Butler ballhandlers. Stowe never lost composure.
▪ Despite its advantage inside, Butler shot nine free throws (7-for-9) compared to 18 for Southwest Guilford, which made 12.