HUNTSVILLE — In what was arguably the biggest game of the regular season, Scott High senior Julia Butts had arguably the biggest game of her career.
Butts, Scott High’s shooting guard and leading scorer, is no stranger to big games. But Friday’s game against Austin-East was big even by her standard. She poured in 24 first half points en route to a season-high 29, as the Lady Highlanders drilled the Roadrunners, 69-40.
With the win, Scott High locked down third place in District 4-AA. It is the Lady Highlanders’ highest regular season finish since 1997, and marked their most district wins in a single season in 10 years.
The first time Scott High faced Austin-East, the Lady Highlanders struggled to a four-point road win in east Knoxville. First-year head coach Jake Wright was visibly frustrated throughout the game as his team struggled against a Roadrunner team they were expected to beat.
In Friday’s rematch, the game was never really in doubt. The Lady Highlanders jumped out to a 23-9 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, storming to the 29-point win.
To put Friday’s performance into perspective, the 23 points the Lady Highlanders scored in the first quarter were more than they scored in the entire game the last two times they played, road losses at Sevier County and Alcoa.
Butts was a big part of the reason why. She scored a whopping 16 points in the opening period, hitting all four of her free throws along the way.
Julie Lewallen came off the bench to provide a spark as well, knocking down five points.
Butts didn’t let up much in the second quarter, hitting two 3-pointers and scoring eight points as the Lady Highlanders withstood the only real run Austin-East was able to mount and grew the lead to 17 points at halftime. Callie Carson hit a key 3-point shot and made two free throws in the second period, as well.
The offense began to slow in the second half. Butts had only five points after the break, but she didn’t need to score many, as Scott High’s lead continue to grow. Austin-East struggled mightily from the free throw line in the third and fourth quarters, hitting only 4 of 16 attempts, as the Lady Highlanders continued to push the lead out.
Scott High’s first four wins of the season were all nailbiters that went down to the wire. But for the first time on Friday, Wright was able to clear his bench in the fourth quarter, allowing his starters and other key players to enjoy the game’s final minutes cheering on their teammates.
Among the bright spots, after Butts hit one final 3-point shot early in the fourth quarter, her younger sister, sophomore Kaitlyn Butts, came on to hit a 3-pointer of her own and finished with five points.
Also scoring were sophomore Brianna Jeffers and freshman Zoey Price.
Scott High shot well from the line, hitting 12 of 17 attempts, and 11 different players scored as the Lady Highlanders matched their season-high offensive output, with 69 points.
With the win, Scott High earns an automatic berth in the Region 2-AA tournament.
SCOTT (69): J. Butts 29, Lewallen 9, Carson 7, K. Butts 5, Young 5, Woodward 4, Garrett 2, B. Jeffers 2, Z. Price 2, Doran 2, Duncan 2.
AUSTIN-EAST (40): Moreno 16, Drew 12, Johnson 5, Andrews 2, Moore 2, Essie 2, Watkins 1.