LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Gaining a double-digit lead, losing it, then building it up again isn’t the prettiest way to win a basketball game.
But in getting their first-ever state tournament victory, Butler didn’t care how the game looked.
“We found a way, that matters,” said head coach Shawn Purlee.
Butler knocked off Knott County Central 57-46 in the first round of the Kentucky Boys’ Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena.
The Bears (20-11) led by as many as 13, but a furious second-half Knott County Central rally put the game in doubt until Butler rallied on a 10-0 run of their own in the final minutes to seal their victory.
“To have that lead evaporate was terrible,” Purlee said. “But we persevered.”
Guard Thomas Blakemore scored 17 to lead Butler.
“We just survived,” Blakemore said. “We found a way to get it together then pulled away.”
Butler will play Mason County in the quarterfinals Friday night.
The Bears led 30-17 at the half, after the Patriots managed just five points in nine minutes.
Knott County Central opened the second half with an 18-4 run to take the lead late in the third quarter. Butler regained the lead after a two quick scores from Blakemore.
Knott County Central (26-7) was led by Stuart Stamper’s 10 points. The Patriots shot just 30 percent from the field. Stamper was the only Patriot in double digits and only reached that mark during the final three minutes of the game.
Butler, considered one of the weaker teams in the tournament, now has a chance to make a statement.
“We’re not satisfied,” Purlee said. “There’s still more to do.”
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