Spotlight on: Holy Cross junior Alliya Butts

For the Holy Cross girls' basketball team, Alliya Butts is a feisty, ball-hawking defender, a coach on the floor, and the best outside shooter and ballhandler.

At 5-foot-4, she rebounds over girls who tower over her. She can drive to the basket, pull up for a jumper, or shoot a three-pointer as well as any player in the area - and she does it all with a high-energy style that doesn't ever seem to slow down.

The junior point guard is averaging 29.5 points for the 2-0 Lancers.

But as imposing as Butts' on-court presence has been, Holy Cross coach Fred Philipps has been most impressed by the few aspects of her game that haven't left spectators in awe.

"The biggest impact that she makes is that she's now become the leader," Philipps said. "The other players trust Alliya. They respect her because of her talent. And they also realize that if you're open, you'll get the ball."

Last season, Butts was the starting point guard for a rotation that, including Butts, featured four Division I prospects.

Forward Amanda Offenback is playing for Monmouth University. And sisters Ashli and Aliyah Jeune, both Rutgers recruits, transferred to Life Center Academy.

That leaves Butts as the floor general of a relatively young and inexperienced team. Philipps sees the other members of his team playing increasingly pivotal roles as the season progresses.

But right now, the team is running through Butts at point guard. It would be hard to imagine a high school girls' basketball player netting a more natural 30 points per game.

In Monday's 57-33 win over Palmyra, Butts scored 33 points but was quick to look for a teammate in transition or offer advice on the court.

"I just try to make everybody better," said Butts, who has not decided on a college yet. "I try to get everybody involved, and when it's time for me to take over, I'm taking over."

In the offseason, Butts travels around the country playing high-level AAU basketball for the Philly Freedom Stars. Against elite competition, Butts is forced to overcome a height disadvantage by playing hard-nosed defense, making crisp passes, and generally playing sound basketball.

Those attributes make her more effective when she does get to play a superstar role for the Lancers.

"And her communication with me is so much better," Philipps said. "We understand each other. We've learned a lot from each other. She's just matured so much."

   - Chris Melchiorre