Butler boys regroup to beat Tigers
By John Enrietto
Eagle Sports Editor
BUTLER TWP — This wasn't shaping up to be Butler's week.
Coming off a controversial one-point loss at Pine-Richland Tuesday night, the Golden Tornado fell behind North Allegheny 18-6 in the first seven minutes of their home game Friday night.
“I couldn't help but wonder if we were going to see a repeat of the game last year,” senior guard Joel Stutz said, referring to the Tigers' 87-70 triumph over Butler here last season.
Not this time.
The Tornado (7-4, 2-2) sank eight 3-pointers in the middle two quarters to surge in front and captured a 72-61 Section 1-6A boys basketball victory over the Tigers.
“I knew the kind of toughness these guys have,” Butler coach Matt Clement said. “Tonight, a big crowd in this gym got to see it. A lot of them will come back to see it again.
“A lot has been said about Tuesday's game, but it's over. It's done with. The kids got over what happened there before I did.”
Butler used five treys — two from Ethan Morton, one each from Jason Gray, Stutz and Ian McCarrier — to pull within 32-29 by halftime.
North Allegheny junior guard Curtis Aiken sank three treys and scored 11 points in the first quarter for the Tigers (4-4, 1-2). He scored a career-high 42 in NA's win at Butler last year.
“I'm sure he came into this gym feeling it, especially with that start,” Clement said. “We decided to make Aiken work his butt off for everything he got.
“Jace Stutz usually guards the other team's top scorer, but he was feeling tired, so we put Joel on him. Joel was expending a lot of energy on defense as a result, so he really had to dig in with his legs to hit the three's he hit.”
An Aiken trey with 6:30 to play knotted the game at 50. Morton answered with a 3-pointer on Butler's next possession. Two Joel Stutz free throws and a Connor Ollio layup gave the Tornado a 57-50 lead with 4:29 to go.
The Tigers never got closer than five the rest of the way. Two Morton free throws upped the Butler lead to 64-56 with 1:13 left. A Tyler Frederick dunk off a fast-break gave the Tornado a 66-59 lead with under a minute to play.
“We were up 12 early, then just laid down and died,” Tigers coach Keith Noftz said. “That was disappointing. We're working on building mental toughness in this program.
“There are teams in this section more talented than Butler, but when it comes to toughness, they're at the top of the list.”
Morton paced Butler with 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Joel Stutz had 15 points and four rebounds, Frederick 14 points and five assists.
Morton relished the atmosphere of a big section game at home,
“I've been waiting so long for this, ever since I came to this gym to watch guys like Bobby (Swartwout) and Nate (Snodgrass play.
“I anticipated what it would feel like, but I had to experience it. I loved it.”
Stutz scored 10 of his points in the third quarter as the Tornado surged into the lead by shooting over NA's zone.
“My teammates did a great job working the ball around and leaving me with open shots,” Stutz said.
Noftz said his team had to play a zone.
“We weren't going to be able to guard them man-to-man,” he said. “We couldn't keep up with them.”
Clement lauded inside players Frederick and Ollio for kicking the ball back out.
“We don't get a lot of those open looks if not for their awareness that way,” the coach said,
Aiken finished with 28 points and six assists for North Allegheny. Isaac Barnes had 14 points and nine boards.
NORTH ALLEGHENY 61
Zach Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Luke Carter 2-5 0-0 6, Curtis Aiken 8-16 7-7 28, Ray Sandherr 2-3 0-0 6, Canyon Tuman 2-2 0-1 4, Devin Bluemling 0-0 0-0 0, Griffin Sestili 1-2 1-2 3, Isaac Barnes 7-11 0-1 14. Totals: 22-39 8-11 61.
Jace Stutz 1-3 1-2 3, Ian McCarrier 2-3 0-0 5, Jason Gray 3-5 0-0 9, Tyler Frederick 6-10 2-3 14, Connor Ollio 3-4 0-0 6, Ethan Morton 5-13 7-9 20, Joel Stutz 5-9 2-4 15, Jefferson Ford 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 25-48 12-19 71.
North Allegheny 21 11 13 16 — 61
Butler10 19 19 24 — 72
3-point goals: Carter 2, Aiken 5, Sandherr 2; McCarrier, Gray 3, Morton 3, Jo. Stutz 2
JV: North Allegheny, 50-36 (NA: Nikko Rankin 19, Michael Egnaczyk 15; B: Tarick Taoufik 18, John Michalek 10)