Fine-tuning for Tornado
Butler breezes past Central, locks up 2nd spot in section
PITTSBURGH — Breezing by Central Catholic 71-55 in a Section 1-6A road contest Friday night gave the Butler boys basketball team room to operate.
The victory allows for the Golden Tornado’s last three games to be drama free.
Butler is locked into second place and had already clinched a WPIAL playoff spot. That doesn’t mean the Golden Tornado (14-4, 7-2) are ready to look toward the playoffs.
There will be a small window to shore up any imperfections.
“We learned last year these games are so important,” said Butler guard Ethan Morton, who tied with Devin Carney with a team-high 18 points. “We had a good run last year and then we lost here, lost at home and almost lost at Armstrong to end the year. We went into the playoffs with bad momentum.
“These last four games, it’s important to stress working hard and playing for each other.”
Working on fine-tuning the defense may be the best approach. The Golden Tornado allow an average of 68.9 points per game, which is second-most out of any WPIAL Class 6A team. Only section rival North Hills concedes more, allowing opponents to average 70.3 points per contest.
“When we’ve gotten in trouble, it’s been defensively,” Butler coach Matt Clement said. “Even the other night (loss to Pine-Richland on Tuesday), as bad as that game felt, we had a good shooting percentage. ... Defensively, at the beginning of the fourth quarter we came out in a 2-3 zone. Then we came out and played man in five or six possessions.”
Against an offensively-challenged Viking squad, Butler was able to start the process. The Golden Tornado opened in man and threw a number of different looks at Central Catholic (4-14, 2-7).
Playing man opened up opportunities for Central forward Ben Sarson, who scored 18 of his game-high 23 in the first half.
“They played us man last time, after playing everyone else zone,” Vikings’ coach Chuck Crummie said. “That’s where our offense went down (tonight), when they started playing zone. They went a little bigger and we didn’t attack it real well.”
Sarson scored the game’s first basket to give Central Catholic one of its three leads.
Despite Sarson’s early offense, Butler didn’t trail for long. The Golden Tornado went ahead for good, 8-6, when Carney made a 3-pointer. Two layups from Morton completed an 8-0 run and Butler never looked back.
“Tonight, I made it a point to get them (teammates) their shots and get them in rhythm,” Morton said. “They did a good job of getting to their spots and making their shots to make my passing better than it was.”
The Golden Tornado shot 46 percent (25-of-54) for the game and knocked down nine 3-pointers. Butler would build a 37-30 lead by halftime.
In the second half, Central Catholic found good looks hard to come by. Butler’s defenses, zone and man, were causing havoc. Sarson didn’t make a field goal after halftime.
“We were moving as the ball was getting passed,” said Butler guard Mattix Clement, who finished with 16 points. “We were getting in front of them. We had a hand on their shots and we were contesting everything.”
Brian Dzuban (12 points) and Jack Catanzarite (10) also reached double figures for the Vikings. Central Catholic shot 42 percent (22-of-52) from the field.
“It’s a thing we work on a lot,” Coach Clement said of man defense. “Against good teams, we’re going to have to play it. We did a good job of it, but there are still some weaknesses.
“When they were posting up, there aren’t a ton of people that post up. Now we’re in man and there’s no one to help if Devin or Mattix get stuck on that guy in the post. They didn’t take advantage of it. It’s good teaching points and learning points.”
Ethan Morton 7 4-6 18, Devin Carney 6 2-2 18, Mattix Clement 6 0-0 16, Isaiah Scribner 3 0-0 6, Luke Patten 1 2-3 4, Mason Montag 2 0-0 4, Colby Anderson 1 0-0 3, Charles Kreinbucher 0 2-2 2, Raine Gratzmiller 0 0-0 0, Kevin King 0 0-0 0. Totals: 26 10-14 71.
CENTRAL CATHOLIC 55
Ben Sarson 9 5-6 23, Brian Dzuban 6 0-0 12, Jack Catanzarite 4 0-0 10, Brett Palmer 2 0-0 4, Sam McCarthy 1 0-0 2, Shipman 1 0-0 2, Farkos 1 0-0 2. Totals: 24 5-6 55.
Butler 19 18 19 15 — 71
Central Catholic13 17 17 8 — 55
3-point goals: Butler 9 (Carney 4, Clement 4, Anderson); Central Catholic 2 (Catanzarite 2).