State Colleges

Butler's back: Grizzlies head to nationals by winning Region VI title

Monday at Koch Arena, everything came full circle for the Butler Community College basketball team.

There was Butler coach Mike Bargen embracing his two young children and his father, Gary, in a sea of purple-clad fans after the Grizzlies defeated Coffeyville 72-60 for the Region VI title, something his father did as Hutchinson's coach in 1981 and 1986.

There was Caleb Walker, the tournament's MVP, wearing a freshly-cut net around his neck after scoring 26 points and grabbing nine rebounds.

And there was the Region VI trophy, hoisted by the Grizzlies for the first time since 1996.

"When I was growing up, I really enjoyed being a part of my dad's teams and how those guys treated me even though I was just a little kid," Mike Bargen said. "And now that's how my guys are like with my son. To have my dad here to watch us win... that really means a lot to me."

Butler, the regular-season champion of the Jayhawk West, will play Wallace (Ala.) State in the first round of the NJCAA Tournament next Tuesday at the Sports Arena in Hutchinson.

Bargen served as the interim coach for Butler for parts of the 2006-07 season and took over the program the next year, winning nine games and finishing next-to-last in the West.

"We wanted to make sure we were bringing in guys with the right type of character," Bargen said. "It was difficult at first, and we know we were asking a lot of these sophomores when they came in following a year where we won nine games, to convince them what they were capable of.

"Hopefully this puts our program back on the map and this team can compare with some of the great Butler teams from the '90s."

Butler led most of the first half, but wasn't able to gain much traction until close to halftime, grabbing its biggest lead at 36-29 after Walker's reverse layup with 40 seconds left.

A driving basket from Coffeyville's Albert Peterson at the buzzer cut Butler's lead to 36-31 at the break.

The Grizzlies hit five three-pointers in the first half, including two from Dushawn Brooks in the first seven minutes.

"I just wanted to make sure I came out aggressive and didn't play tentative," Brooks said. "Coffeyville is a great team and we knew they would battle."

In the second half, Walker seemingly willed the Grizzlies to the victory.

Leading 52-50 with nine minutes left, Walker scored seven straight points, capping things off with a two-handed dunk and a three-pointer for a 59-52 lead. The Red Ravens never got closer than five points after that.

"When Caleb feels like the game is in jeopardy, he does that," Bargen said. "Whatever we need, he'll provide."

Troy Pierce added 11 points and 12 rebounds for Butler. Brooks finished with 11 points and Kevin Broussard led Coffeyville with 13 points.

"Right now it's about this team, what we did together," said Walker, who committed to Nebraska last Monday. "We've still got some things to do. I want this to be one of the greatest teams ever."

BUTLER (29-5): Cousin 9, Hilyard 3, Morgan 2, Pierce 11, Sloan 0, Brooks 11, Walker 26, Gibbs 10, Ingram 0. Totals 25-60 14-20 72.

COFFEYVILLE (22-12): Hardyway 0, Wilson 11, Broussard 13, Bransford 11, Peterson 4, Johnson 3, Townsend-Gant 9, Bowlin 0, Biggers 9. Totals 26-65 2-3 60.

Halftime: Butler 26, Coffeyville 31. 3's: Butler 8-21 (Brooks 3, Walker 2, Gibbs, Hilyard, Cousin); Coffeyville 6-25 (Broussard 3, Wilson, Johnson, Townsend-Gant). Rebounds: Butler 41 (Pierce 11); Coffeyville 36 (Bransford 14). Assists: Butler 10 (Walker 4); Coffeyville 15 (Hardyway 3, Broussard 3, Biggers 2).