Forgive Mike Helmer, despite all his gifts, for being a little aggrieved.
He has his reasons.
“I can’t get comfortable,” said Helmer, in his sixth season as Butler Community College’s women’s basketball coach. “I guess it’s just the way things have gone for us this year. It’s common sense.”
Why, might you ask, would a man with a 30-1 record, Jayhawk East title and No. 6 national ranking be on edge?
First, the Grizzlies should be undefeated headed into Wednesday’s Region VI quarterfinal game against Cloud at Koch Arena. Men’s quarterfinal games are on Thursday, men’s and women’s semifinals are Friday and both title games are Saturday.
Not undefeated as in “we should’ve played better” or “we should’ve gotten a few more calls.”
As in Butler scored more points than another team and lost.
At Murray (Okla.) State on Nov. 8, in their third game of the season, the Grizzlies walked out with their only defeat, 63-62. Up by five points, Butler’s Te’era Williams hit a layup and was fouled, converting the free-throw for an 8-point lead.
“Then a woman comes over to the scorer’s table on a motorized scooter,” Helmer said. “She talks to the scorekeeper, who then says the score is wrong and they take three points off of our score and our lead goes back down to five. My assistants caught it right when it happened, but the official has to go with the scorebook.”
Helmer and his assistants had a much different reaction after watching the game film, when they tallied up the points and realized the scorekeeper’s subtraction had been in error – they should’ve won 65-63. They watched and rewatched to be sure, then filed a complaint with the Jayhawk and then with the NJCAA, who sided with Butler but wouldn’t distinguish the game as a “no contest” like Helmer asked.
“(The NJCAA) just told us it was not to be considered a loss in the national polls,” Helmer said. “I’m more disappointed in Murray State. I wouldn’t want to get a win like that.”
Then there’s what happened Sunday, when the All-Jayhawk East teams came out and Cowley guard Emilie Gronas was named Jayhawk East MVP over Butler’s Te’era Williams, a 6-foot forward who transferred to Butler from Texas Southern.
“It seems like we’re penalized because we won our games by so much,” Helmer said. “I could’ve left our kids in, I guess, but that didn’t seem like the right thing to do.”
Helmer’s not exaggerating. Williams averaged a double-double with 19.3 points and 10.3 rebounds while leading the Jayhawk in field-goal percentage at 60.3 percent (191 for 317). Williams also was fifth in free-throw percentage at 78.6, but was 213 for 271. None of the four players ahead of her shot more than 140 free throws.
The kicker? She did it all in 19.3 minutes per game. In 12 Jayhawk East games, Butler won by an average of 36.4 points – the closest game being a 75-65 win at Cowley on Feb. 12.
Helmer was named Jayhawk East coach of the year. Williams and Heights product Ashlee Ivy, who has committed to WSU, were both named first team. Freshmen Ashley Gibson and Teanna Reid were second-team picks.
Looming above it all is Butler trying for its first trip to the NJCAA Tournament. The Region VI quarterfinals feature three ranked teams in No. 3 Hutchinson (29-0), No. 20 Seward (26-2) and Butler. Hutchinson faces Independence (17-10) in the quarterfinals and Seward plays Barton (19-12).
“People have been telling us we’re a lock for an at-large bid, but I’m not buying it,” Helmer said. “When it’s us and Hutch in the (Region VI) title game, that’s when I’ll feel comfortable that we’ve got at least an at-large bid. But if we get beat and then somebody else besides Hutch wins this thing, all bets are off.”