by Andrew Stark
After years of domination, during which the Butler girls basketball team produced one college recruit after another, the 2011-12 campaign was supposed to be the season other teams would repay the Bulldogs for past humiliating losses.
Instead, the undermanned Bulldogs shook off a 5-6 start to the season and still managed to notch their share of impressive victories and made a strong run in the postseason.
“We played together and had a group of seniors who put us on their back,” said Butler coach Mark Sanders. “They made up their mind and went out to prove everybody was wrong about them. They had a choice at the beginning of the season, and they made the choice to get after it and work hard.”
When the season came to an end with a Feb. 24 loss to Super 7 No. 1 Myers Park in the third round of the Class 4A state tournament, Butler seniors Elizabeth Bloom, Ashanti Reid, Symphonie Richardson and Jaymee Fisher-Davis took off their Butler jerseys for their last time.
The Bulldogs had won nine of 11 games, and Southwestern 4A conference members Myers Park and Ardrey Kell were the only teams to beat the Bulldogs since the calendar flipped to 2012.
Butler finished the season with a 17-12 record, and their 10-4 league mark was good enough for third place.
“We didn’t lose to anyone who won less than 20 games the entire season,” Sanders said. “The defense got much better as the season wore on, and Jaymee and Symphonie had great individual seasons and accounted for about 75 percent of our scoring.”
Richardson averaged 16.3 points and 11.9 rebounds and was a force in the post. Fisher-Davis, a Liberty University recruit, led Butler with 19.6 points per game and contributed 3.6 steals, 3.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists while making 80 3-pointers during the year.
“They carried us offensively all season,” Sanders said. “They deservingly get a lot of the credit. But with only eight players (on the roster), everyone had to step up, contribute and play their roles, and everyone did a great job of that. I am very pleased with how well we fought all season.”
Next season, Sanders said he will have a few players who will move up from JV but will rely on Kobe Leigh (3.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game), Laura Hayes (3.6 points) and Caroline Barnett (2.6) to carry on the tradition of Butler basketball.
“It is going to be really hard without Jaymee and (Symphonie) especially, but a lot will be expected out of the girls coming back,” Sanders said. “We have to outwork our opponents and be ready. Nobody is going to feel sorry that we are losing our seniors, so we have to come back ready to work.”