Clutch Cait


BUTLER TWP — With Butler in need of a bucket, Cait Baxter came through in the clutch. 

Trailing Oakland Catholic by one with 8.5 seconds left on the clock in overtime, Baxter took a pass from Sam Marak about 60 feet away from the hoop. The senior sprinted upcourt, smoothly knifed through the lane and laid the ball off the backboard and in as the final seconds ticked away. 
Teammates spilled onto the court and mauled Baxter, celebrating a crucial 32-31 Section 3-AAAA triumph over the pesky Eagles on Saturday afternoon at Butler High School. 

Just 10 days prior, Oakland Catholic handed Butler a heart-wrenching 31-29 defeat. Baxter and the rest of the Golden Tornado were happy to return the favor. 

“I just had to take it to the hoop. I felt like I could take it,” said Baxter of the game’s final moments. “Everyone else did their part. We sealed girls, Sam made a great pass to me, everyone got out. … We won that game as a team. It was an awesome team effort.” 
The victory puts Butler (9-9, 5-3) two games clear of Seneca Valley and Shaler, which are tied for the section’s final postseason spot. 

It was also a milestone win for the program. 
“They told us in the locker room that was the first time we’ve ever beat Oakland,” said Baxter. “That means a lot as a team. We put it all out there that game. We knew we had to win.” 

Coming off a 48-27 loss to North Allegheny Thursday and having practice canceled Friday due to snow, Butler coach Dorothea Epps was impressed with her team’s response in a roller-coaster season. 

“They’ve been working so hard. Sometimes, things were working out for them and sometimes not,” she explained. “After that NA game, you just had to see what they had left. Sometimes, those emotional games take a lot out of you.” 
Turns out the Tornado had plenty in the tank. 
Mackenzie O’Donnell capped a 10-0 run with a buzzer-beating mid-range jumper in the first quarter and Morgan Pfabe did the same in the second to give Butler a 21-16 halftime cushion. 

“Just because you get down, you don’t give up,” said Oakland Catholic coach Shannon Boyle. “You fight as hard as you can to come back.” 
The Eagles claimed a 25-24 lead — their first since early in the second quarter — with 5:58 remaining in regulation, but Baxter immediately answered with a 3-pointer coming out of a timeout. 
O’Donnell — who had a game-high 13 points — scored the final basket of regulation with 3:45 to play, as both offenses killed clock in hopes of having the final shot. 
The Eagles sat on the ball for well over a minute, before O’Donnell cut in front of a pass and stole the ball with 1:15 to play. 

“That was huge. We’ve been talking about anticipating ... reading the girls eyes and seeing where she’s throwing,” said Epps. “She did a great job of stepping in there and taking that pass.” 
The Tornado played keepaway and took timeout with eight seconds left. O’Donnell took a pass in the post, but her shot was well-defended and the teams went to overtime. 
The extra period moved slowly until Baxter was fouled with 34 seconds left and converted the front end of a one-and-one for a 30-29 edge, but missed the second foul shot. 
Oakland Catholic’s Mara Fitzgerald — who led the Eagles with nine points — drove to the basket on the next possession and drew a foul. She calmly swished both free throws, but left enough time on the clock for Baxter’s heroics. 
“We had a whole team effort tonight. We had a couple of other girls like Pfabe and (Alyssa) DiPippa come in and do a nice job,” said Epps. “If you’re only playing five or six girls, it gets very tiring out there in those emotional games.” 
In 8 ½ quarters of play this season, the squads have been separated by a total of one point. 
“It’s almost like watching mirror images of each other,” said Boyle. “You just hope at the end you can come up with it and sometimes you don’t.” 
Fitzgerald dished out three assists for the Eagles and Taylor McCorkle had eight points and six rebounds. 
Baxter finished with 12 points and a game-high five assists, while Barkus tallied three steals and O’Donnell pulled down six boards. 
“The defense was really, really good tonight,” said Epps. “They really worked hard out there and were very focused.” 
The Tornado returns to action today at Pine-Richland for the first of four section games — against teams they’ve already beaten once — to close the regular season. Butler hopes it can finish on a hot streak. 

“We have a motto that you start boiling at 211 degrees,” said Epps. “We feel we’re at 212 and we’re going up.” 
Mara Fitzgerald 3-9 2-4 9, Nicole Johnson 3-6 2-4 8, Madison Caufield 0-3 0-0 0, Taylor McCorkle 2-4 4-4 8, Taylor Renk 3-4 0-0 6, Kelly Vigliotti 0-0 0-0 0, Paige Bianchin 0-1 0-0 0, Allison Nedrow 0-0 0-0 0.
Totals: 11-27 8-12 31. 
Cait Baxter 3-9 5-6 12, Sam Marak 0-2 0-0 0, Mackenzie O’Donnell 5-9 3-4 13, Kalynn Callihan 1-4 0-0 3, Natalie Barkus 1-4 0-1 2, Alyssa DiPippa 0-0 0-0 0, Morgan Pfabe 1-5 0-0 2, Lauren Bresnahan 0-0 0-0 0.
Totals: 11-33 8-11 32. 
Oakland Catholic 3 13 4 9 2—31 
Butler10 11 3 5 3—32 
3-point goals: Oakland Catholic 1-9 (Fitzgerald 1-7, Caufield 0-2); Butler 2-15 (Baxter 1-3, Callihan 1-4, Marak 0-2, Barkus 0-3, Pfabe 0-3). 

JV: Oakland Catholic 31, Butler 30