Butler senior guard eventually finds game as Tornado girls roll past Kiski, 54-30
BUTLER TWP — It had been 22 months since Cait Baxter stepped onto the basketball court.
Her last game for the Golden Tornado was Feb. 15, 2011. She was a sophomore then. Her junior season was wiped out by a serious knee injury.
Now a senior recovering from major reconstructive surgery, Baxter wanted nothing more than to enjoy this night.
After a rusty start, the guard scored nine points in the third quarter as the Butler girls basketball team rolled to a 54-30 win over Kiski Area in the Butler Tip-off Tournament Friday night.
“It was the best feeling ever,” Baxter said, smiling. “After a year off, it felt really good.”
Like Baxter, the Golden Tornado were rusty early. Midway through the first quarter, both teams had more fouls (four) than points (three).
But Butler regrouped, went on a 14-3 run to close out the quarter and led by 21 at halftime.
“There were a lot of nerves,” said Butler coach Dorothea Epps. “I saw several good things out there tonight. You just never know with that first game. Girls are nervous and for some of them it's the first time they have been out there. Sometimes getting that first one is the hardest.”
For Baxter, the first half was spent shaking off the rust and scored just two points.
She didn't shy away from contact early, though, diving for loose balls and at one point flipping over Kiski's Maddie Antone in an attempt to grab a rebound.
Baxter, who led the Tornado in scoring as a sophomore at nearly 15 points per game, settled down at the beginning of the third quarter and poured in nine points in the frame to finish with 11.
“I was just getting back into things in the first half,” Baxter said. “In the second half, I knew I had to bring my A game. I needed to come out strong in the third quarter.”
Epps was just glad to have her playmaker back on the court.
“She's coming along,” Epps said. “It's so good to see her out there. It's like a breath of fresh air because she can do so many things. We're real happy with her. She was a little rusty and had a little bit of nerves, too, but she looked good out there.”
So did senior forward Mackenzie O'Donnell, who led the Golden Tornado with 13 points.
O'Donnell was dominant at times in the paint on both end of the court.
“Mackenzie,” Baxter said, “she's a beast.”
“She was destroying it in there,” Epps said. “She was posting really hard and her and Cait were a nice tandem out there.”
Butler also received a strong game from its bench.
Julia Baxter, Natalie Barkus and Kalynn Callihan combined for 18 points off the bench.
“All in all, I thought it was a really good team effort tonight,” Epps said. “The girls off the bench, they are playing their role.”
Cait Baxter is just happy to be off the bench and playing again.
“This is my senior season. I want it to be the best,” Cait Baxter said. “This is my last year. I have to give it all I have.”
KISKI AREA 30
Maddie Antone 2-8 6-8 11, Kaylie Dilts 2-6 0-0 5, Rachel Weyant 1-3 3-5 5, Megan Majersky 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Muffie 1-10 1-4 3, Anyssa Sanchez 0-5 2-4 2, Liz Rechhia 2-3 0-0 4, Alexis Trzula 0-2 0-0 0, Marina Slyascak 0-0 0-2 0. Totals: 8-37 12-23 30.
Alyssa DiPippa 0-3 2-5 2, Mackenzie O'Donnell 4-9 5-6 13, Sam Marak 1-2 0-2 3, Morgan Pfabe 3-9 0-0 6, Cait Baxter 4-9 2-3 11, Natalie Barkus 2-2 1-4 5, Julia Baxter 2-5 3-4 7, Kalynn Callihan 2-3 0-0 6, Lauren Bresnahan 0-0 0-0 0, Leah Murphy 0-1 0-0 0, Emily Eyth 0-0 0-0 0, Noel Pfabe 0-0 1-2 1, Ronni Guiney 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 18-44 14-26 54.
Kiski Area 6 5 7 12—30
Butler 17 15 15 7—54
3-pointers: Kiski 2 (Antone, Dilts); Butler 4 (Marak, C. Baxter, Callihan 2)
JV: Butler 48-9