Butler holds off Baldwin rally, gets 71-62 playoff win
By John Enrietto
Eagle Sports Editor
WEXFORD — Leave it to the freshman ... if you want to call him that.
“He's not a freshman anymore,” Butler boys basketball coach Matt Clement said of Ethan Morton. “He's a very young sophomore now.”
He's also a difference-maker — as evidenced by a critical steal and pair of free throws with a minute remaining in the Golden Tornado's WPIAL Class 6A playoff game against Baldwin Wednesday night at North Allegheny High School.
The play short-circuited a Highlander comeback and set up Butler to polish off a 71-62 victory.
The Tornado (15-8) won their fourth straight and never trailed in the game. Their lead peaked at 33-19 with 2:49 left in the first half and they took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter.
But Baldwin was coming.
Sparked by 6-foot-3 senior guard Anthony Reid — who scored 10 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth period — the Highlanders pulled within 58-56 with 3:24 remaining.
“That was about defense for us,” Baldwin coach Joe Urmann said of the rally. “Runs like that usually start with defense.”
Ultimately, it was the defensive play by Morton that keyed Butler's victory.
He hit a 3-point shot to give the Tornado a 61-56 edge with 2:07 left. Jake Monroe answered with two free throws and Baldwin regained possession, calling a timeout with 1:18 left in what was now a one-possession game.
“We never stopped believing we would win this,” Butler senior Joel Stutz said. “The way Ethan stepped up ... He amazes us every day in practice.
“He keeps getting better. It's scary to think he's only a freshman.”
After the timeout, Morton stole the ball near midcourt, drove the other way and was fouled on his way to the hoop. He sank both free throws with 59 seconds left.
“As soon as I got the ball, I just wanted to go to the hoop because I knew they'd be fouling me,” Morton said.
“That was a big-time play by a big-time player,” Urmann admitted.
Butler salted the game away at the foul line. Connor Ollio sank two free throws with 46 seconds to play, Morton adding two more 35 seconds left.
Monroe drained a trey for the Highlanders, but Joel Stutz gave Butler a 69-62 lead with two free throws with 26.4 seconds on the clock.
“We hit 10 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter (17 of 20 for the game),” Clement said. “Those were all clutch shots.
“I told the guys during a timeout, just because we lost a bunch of close games doesn't mean we don't know how to win one. We came out of a tough section. Just go out and play your game.”
Morton said that the grueling Section 1-6A paid off for Butler on this night.
“No doubt. We were used to this type of atmosphere and intensity,” he said. “I know I missed some key free throws in late stretches of games this year. That just prepares you to make 'em the next time.”
Stutz paced four Tornado players in double figures with 20 points, adding six rebounds and three steals. Morton had 16 points, four assists and four rebounds, Tyler Frederick 16 points and nine boards, Ollio 10 points.
Frederick had a steal and slam dunk that gave Butler a 58-52 edge with 3:58 left. His first three buckets of the night were on offensive stick-backs.
“That Frederick is a monster in there. Butler is a veteran team and they executed well when the heat was on. My hat is off to them,” Urmann said.
The win marked the first playoff victory ever for Butler's seniors.
“We wanted this one badly,” Stutz said.
Stutz drained three treys early to help Butler take a lead it never lost. The game was tied only once — at 8-8 — before a Frederick three-point play with 4:50 left in the first quarter put Butler in front for good.
Reid hit five treys among his 23 points for Baldwin. Nick Fiumara had 18 points. The Highlanders were out-rebounded, 34-24.
“We showed a lot of poise tonight,” Clement said. “Everyone we put on the floor contributed. Tyler and Eyan went to the bench with two fouls each in the second quarter and guys like Luke Michalek, Jason Gray and Ian McCarrier helped us stay the course.
“With 15 seconds left, I turned around and looked at our crowd. It was fantastic. That's why I love my hometown so much and wanted to coach here and help these kids. The community support is tremendous and there will be twice as many there on Saturday.”
The Tornado will take on second-seeded Latrobe in the quarterfinals at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Penn Hills. Latrobe is 19-3, has won nine straight and is fueled by 6-foot-5 senior guard Austin Butler.
“He's a tremendous player and they are a tremendous team,” Clement said. “No one is giving us a chance to win this game. But we'll bring our uniforms and we'll show up.”
Anthony Reid 7-20 4-7 23, Carlos Perdomo-Ramirez 0-0 0-0 0, Jake Monroe 3-6 2-2 9, Thomas Becker 1-3 0-0 2, Frank Owusu 1-3 0-0 2, Mike Goga 3-5 2-2 8, Nick Fiumara 5-13 5-6 18. Totals: 20-50 13-17 62.
Luke Michalek 1-5 0-0 2, Jace Stutz 2-3 0-0 4, Ian McCarrier 0-2 0-0 0, Jason Gray 1-5 0-0 3, Tyler Frederick 6-9 4-5 16, Connor Ollio 4-9 2-2 10, Ethan Morton 4-7 4-6 16, Joel Stutz 5-10 7-7 20, Cade Negley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 23-50 17-20 71.
Baldwin 13 14 12 23 — 62
Butler21 14 14 22 — 71
3-point goals: Reid 5, Monroe, Fiumara 3; Gray, Morton 4, Jo.Stutz 3
Saturday: Butler vs. Latrobe, 2:30 p.m. at Penn Hills