A Perfect Farewell

Wade Upchurch I CJ

Southwestern High School girls basketball coach Stephen Butcher directs his players during the 48th District Tournament. Butcher will coach in his final regional tournament this week, as he will be taking on new administrative duties in the county school system.

Perfect!

That is the exact word used to describe Southwestern High School girls basketball coach Stephen Butcher's six-year coaching record in 48th District play.

For six straight seasons, Butcher has led his Lady Warriors' basketball teams to six straight 48th District Tournament crowns and a perfect 31-0 record in district play.

And barring the remote possibility that Wayne County defeats Southwestern in the 12th Region Tournament championship game on Monday, March 4, Butcher will end his career coaching at Southwestern with a perfect 48th District competition record.

Butcher, who is now an assistant principal at Southwestern High School, will have to give up his coaching job after this season to further his administrative career within the county school system.

Coaching has been a huge part of Butcher's existence for most of his adult life, but it was a tough decision the ball coach had to make for the betterment of his family and his future career in education.

"I am 41 years old now, and I have been coaching - in some shape, form or fashion - since I was 19 years old," Butcher remarked. "I was a student assistant (coach) at Cumberland College from the moment I walked on campus. For the last 22 years, coaching is all I have known."

"What is best for my family at this time with the position I have now is to make this move," Butcher said. "And while (leaving the coaching profession) is bittersweet, not everything is all about 'you'. And sometimes you have to do things that benefit others and do what is best for your family."

With games still left to be played, Butcher has accumulated a 136-39 record in his six years at the Lady Warriors' helm - which equates to nearly an 80 percent win percentage. Butcher has had winning seasons all six years, has had five 20+ win seasons, and his Lady Warriors have been considered among the top teams in the 12th Region every year.

However, the one accolade that has escaped Butcher while at Southwestern has been a 12th Region Tournament title. Butcher has led the Lady Warriors to four 12th Region Tournament semifinal appearances and a 12th Region Tournament championship game appearance in 2015. Butcher does have a regional title to his coaching career resume, as he led Pike County Central to the 15th Region crown in 2007 and advanced all the way to the KHSAA State Tournament Final Four.

Butcher has led numerous talented Lady Warrior teams to battle in the 12th Region Tournament, but the squad from Mercer County has almost always stood in the way of the Lady Warriors' 'Regional Title and State Tournament Dreams'. The Lady Titans ended Butcher's coaching season for four straight years from 2014 to 2017. Last season, Casey County downed Butcher's Lady Warriors in the 12th Region Tournament semifinal round, as Mercer County went on to win their fourth straight 12th Region title and their second consecutive state championship title.

"One thing I've learned, once you get to this point (of the season), you don't have to necessarily be the best team, you have to be the team playing the best," Butcher explained. "We had a real big win at Mercer County (last Friday), and they have sort of had our number since I have been here."

Just like in years past, the Lady Warriors will have to work hard to much up against a slew of talented teams in this year's Girls 12th Region Tournament field.

"We match up well with all the teams in the region, it's just a matter of - that night - making sure we are on our A-game," Butcher explained. "It doesn't matter who you play in what round, we can all be beaten because we all have flaws. The team that plays to their strengths and minimizes their flaws, then that will be the team that wins and be the 12th Region champions."

Regi Cundiff, Kennedy Harris, Alexa Smiddy and Kallie Sheron have been playing at the Southwestern varsity level for several years now with one common denominator - Coach Stephen Butcher.'"

"These kids have been around me every since I have been at Southwestern, we have been really close to each other, and they are all near and dear to my heart," Butcher said. "Any mistakes they have made I take full responsibility because I am the only high school coach they have known. I am excited for their future, but I am sad I have to leave some of them. I won't be their coach, but I will still get to be around them at school."

Like every coach playing in any of the 16 regional tournaments across the state of Kentucky, the pressure is on to win each game and hopefully extent their seasons as long as they can. At this point, a loss is a season-ending game.

However, Butcher explained he didn't feel anymore pressure coaching in his last regional tournament as he does any other game of his storied 22-year coaching career.

"In my three years at Pike County Central, we went to three region finals, won a regional title and advanced to the state Final Four. Right after that in my third year, I get pink slipped," Butcher explained. "So I have coached every game like it was my last game, because you never know. We are not guaranteed tomorrow in anything."

"We got one more shot at this thing together, and we are going to do everything we can to make it our best shot," Butcher stated. "Yes it is bittersweet, but we are going to enjoy it as long as we can."

STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at sports@somerset-kentucky.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.

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