Butler Holds Off Bulls Prep to Win 1st NAC Championship
Exelon Gymnasium, Chicago, IL - Butler Head Coach, Paul Hobson, did not underestimate the challenge ahead of him in 2016 NAC title game. His young and talented squad came in as the #2 seed after an 12-1 conference finish and was tasked with facing three-time NAC champion - Bulls Prep - a feisty 5th seed that has now played in the title game four of the last five seasons.
Butler junior, Quincy McGrew, cuts a piece of the net after their 65-51 victory
Said Hobson, "I knew that they were a team that was coached well, knew how to play playoff basketball, and most of all had a championship attitude. I told our players not underestimate them, because they know how to win championships."
Butler defeated #9 Baker and #6 Hansberry in route to the title game. Bulls Prep found its way back to the title game with upset wins over #4 Johnson and #1 seed, UIC.
Bulls Prep was handily beaten by Butler earlier in the season, but used stingy defense and methodical offense to take a 13-12 lead going into the second quarter. Bulls Prep head coach, Jacob Goldstein, talked through the game plan. "We had five or six keys we needed to accomplish, but our game plan was simple...play Bulls Prep basketball."
Goldstein also commented on his teams' run to the title game. "Our senior leadership has been outstanding all season. Their dedication, work ethic, and fearlessness spread throughout our younger players and brought this team together. It is rare to see a group of guys with the basketball awareness our players have and to learn from each mistake made during the regular season, take it to heart, and use those very mistakes to get better."
After a slow start, Butler promptly responded with a 12-2 run to start the second quarter and a 27 point outburst to take a 39-26 lead into the half.
Hobson delivered a clear second quarter message to his team. "Just continue to play our game. I tell them all the time, basketball is a game of runs. Now, it’s your turn to make a run, make it longer and better than theirs. We just continued to play our game, and it worked out for us. We are confident that if we play our game to the best of our ability that we can compete with any team."
Bulls Prep senior, Brandon Hilliard, is defended by Butler junior, Kevon Williams
Butler used their length, size and a trapping defense to negate several late runs by Bulls Prep. The Bulls cut the margin to 10 in the 4th quarter before Butler pulled away in the final minutes with a 65-51 win.
Hobson was proud of his teams' maturation throughout the year. "I think the largest key was learning how to prepare for games. We had a problem pushing ourselves in practice. Once we realized that we weren’t prepared to challenge elite teams, we started to push ourselves to the max every day. No excuses became our mantra. We fought hard no matter what."
Goldstein was very complimentary of Butler and the championship atmosphere. "Both teams gave a great effort and Butler earned every part of their championship. Butler is a very talented team and you could definitely see that from the moment of tip-off. In terms of the game, it was great to see not just Butler and Bulls Prep fans in the stands, but students and staff from all over the network. I think it was an amazing experience."
For Hobson and Butler, the future is bright, as they return every member of this year's championship team. "We look forward to having all of these players back next year and making a run at the conference championship and the state championship."
Butler sports the NAC Gold
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