MATTHEWS – Every team goes through changes from season to season, and this winter the Butler boys basketball team is going through some serious challenges after losing five of their top six scorers to either graduation or transfer.
The only holdover of that group – sensational junior point guard Jordan McPhatter – is doing his thing, but the other Bulldogs are having to grow up in a hurry.
“We’re young and inexperienced right now,” Butler coach Myron Lowery said following his team’s 55-54 loss to Charlotte Catholic at the Charlotte Hoops Challenge on Nov. 30. “I tell them that it would be better if we could get over some of this inexperience in practice instead of during the games. But they fight, they listen and they’re fun to coach. I think they are going to get better, although some of that stuff may need to come sooner than later.”
The Bulldogs lost on a shot from Catholic with about 10 seconds remaining on the clock. That came a day after the Bulldogs lost 53-52 to Vance on a buzzer-beater.
McPhatter scored 18 points in the loss to Vance and joined 7-foot sophomore center Patrick Wessler (12 points and nine rebounds) in double figures.
Those two dominated the scoring in the close loss to Catholic as McPhatter scored 26 points to go with six
rebounds. Wessler poured in a career-high 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting and added 13 rebounds.
Although those two have established themselves as the leaders of this year’s team, Lowery said there needs to be more balance going forward.
“We can’t have that,” he said. “Yeah it’s good there are two players with 50 points, but we can’t have them have 50 of the 54 that we score. We have to get a little more scoring from everybody. They had opportunities, too, they just have to make plays.”
Outside of McPhatter and Wessler, the Bulldogs combined to shoot just 2-of-17 from the floor against Catholic with only sophomores Chastin Gatewood and Amar Lane cracking the scoring column.
Still, Lowery was pleased with the effort of guys like Moses Payne (five rebounds, five assists and three steals) and Carson Evans (five rebounds and six assists), who played well against Catholic, and sophomore Ty Black who scored six in the loss to Vance.
And he’s proud of the fight of his team, who seemed dead in the water early in the fourth quarter against Catholic, only to claw back and even take the lead before the late 3-pointer dashed their comeback attempt.
“It was 52-44, we called a timeout and scored 10 in a row,” Lowery said. “But it’s not only those plays at the end, it’s through the course of the game when we’re making mistakes, making too many turnovers and going 5-of-10 from the line. We had a lot of opportunities, but we’re not making plays. We can make the hard plays it seems, but we can’t make the easy ones. We’re missing a lot of wide open 3’s right now. They’re just wide open and you’d think we’d make some of them.”
The Bulldogs are still a work in progress at 2-3 on the young season, but Lowery has had great success at the school, winning at least 20 games in each of his five seasons at Butler.
With the conference season approaching, he said this week is critical as the Bulldogs look to work out the kinks and get ready for what should be a nightly battle in the Southwestern 4A with Butler, Independence, Rocky River and Myers Park expected to challenge for the league title and with Porter Ridge and Hickory Ridge not far behind.
“We played two very solid teams the past two nights,” Lowery said. “That’s how our conference is. Everybody is good in our conference and everybody can beat us and we can beat anybody. These last two nights have proven it.”
Butler only has one game this week with South Pointe, but open Southwestern 4A play with a trip to Myers Park on Dec. 10 and then they host Rocky River three days later.
“We have a good foundation, but we have to get better at it,” Lowery said. “It’s the little things at this point. It’s not brain surgery, but we have to do the simple things better and make open shots.”