WICHITA, Kan. – The Butler women saw an 11-point lead slip away in the second half as they were eliminated from the Region VI Tournament with a 59-58 loss to Independence in the quarterfinals at Koch Arena – despite a career-high 39 points from sophomore Ashley Gibson.
The women, who are receiving votes in this week's national poll, are now 24-7. They will await word on a possibly at-large berth in the national tournament.
The Grizzlies struggled with turnovers throughout the contest, committing 26. Butler had 30 turnovers in a loss at Hutchinson and 26 in a narrow win at Dodge City earlier in the season.
The turnovers are what kept Independence in the game, despite Butler shooting 50 percent from the floor (22-44) and outrebounding the Pirates by 10 (37-27). Independence shot just 33 percent (19-57).
Butler fell behind 6-2 early, but then went on a 9-0 run to take an 11-6 lead. Butler would still lead by five late in the half at 27-22, but an Independence 3-pointer just before the break pulled the Pirates within two at 29-27 at halftime.
Butler would surge in the second half, using a 12-2 run to go ahead 46-35 after an Ashley Gibson bucket with 12:53 to play.
The Grizzlies would still lead 54-47 with 4:18 to play after a free throw by Gibson. Independence then scored 10 straight and led 57-54 after an offensive rebound and stick back with 2:18 to go.
Ashley Gibson would score four more points in two trips to the free throw line, the latest with 1:36 to play. That put Butler back up 58-57. Butler had a chance to extend the lead, but another turnover gave the ball back to Independence with 34 seconds left.
The Pirates got the ball in the paint and score with 8.4 seconds to go. Butler had one last look, but the buzzer-beater by Katie Palmer bounced off the rim, sealing Butler's fate.
For Gibson, her 39 was two more than she had in a win over Seminole State in November. She finishes her career with 1,064 points, third-highest in program history behind Jamillah Bonner (1,081) and Lakeisha Levi (1,071).