by Tom Utescher
Shown here in a Penn Charter uniform in her junior season in high school, Brianna Butler will still be wearing number 13 this weekend. This time, it will be embossed on a Syracuse University uniform, and Butler will be starting for the Orange in an NCAA national semifinal game in Indianapolis. She is the only southeastern Pennsylvania native who will be playing in the women’s Final Four, and one of only two players from the Philadelphia area to make it past the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Butler grew up in King-of-Prussia and in the fall of 2008 she joined the freshman class at Penn Charter, where she would play three seasons of varsity basketball for the Quakers. Just a few days after the fall term of her senior year began, she transferred to Nazareth High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., where her coach in the Exodus AAU program, Robert Paschall, had just taken the helm of the school’s varsity team. Highly recruited (and later named a McDonald’s All-American), she had already received an offer from Syracuse.
Last weekend, in the NCAA Sweet 16 in the semifinals of the Sioux Falls Region, Butler scored 16 of her 18 total points (including four three-point field goals) in the second half as fourth-seeded Syracuse upset the number one seed, South Carolina, 80-72. In the regional finals, the slick-shooting 5’11” guard stuck another 18 on the board (this time with six three-pointers). The Orange laid waste to a seemingly resurgent Tennessee team, 89-67. In the national semifinals this Sunday Butler and Syracuse will face the University of Washington (a seven-seed like Tennessee), a team they edged, 66-62, the day after Thanksgiving.