Butler beats Seneca Valley to earn playoff spot
By John Enrietto
Eagle Sports Editor
JACKSON TWP — When Seneca Valley pushed, Butler pushed back harder.
The Golden Tornado answered a 10-2 Raider second-half run with a 15-5 run of their own in putting away a 55-41 boys basketball victory on the road Friday night. The game was a mutual Section 1-6A season finale.
The loss eliminated SV (12-10, 5-7) from WPIAL playoff contention and ended its season.
“It came down to the final game of the year at home to determine whether we got in the playoffs and we were 1-4 at one point,” SV coach Victor Giannotta said. “I'm proud of the way this team battled back.
“Everyone except for whoever wins the state championship is eventually going to feel like we feel tonight.”
Butler (13-8, 7-5) finished third in the section with the win. A loss could have eliminated the Tornado.
“We wanted to decide this thing ourselves,” Butler coach Matt Clement said. “We didn't want to have to rely on the result of another game.”
Butler would have made the playoffs regardless due to North Hills' 71-63 win over North Allegheny Friday night.
Consecutive treys by Payton Skalos and Chris Hart gave SV a 6-2 lead midway through the first quarter. A 9-0 Butler run at that point gave the Tornado the lead they never lost.
Connor Ollio stuck back an offensive rebound, sank another layup and Joel Stutz drained a trey to highlight that run.
Jace Stutz sank two treys and Ollio hit two more layups during a third-period burst that extended Butler's lead to 38-22 with two minutes left in the period.
“Jace has come alive offensively in our last three games,” Clement said. “He's picked a good time to get hot.”
The Raiders took one more run at Butler. Hart sank a trey and Patrick Uher stole the ball and drove in for a layup to key the 10-2 burst that cut the gap to 38-29 with 6:44 left.
Then Butler decided the issue.
A Joel Stutz trey, a three-point play by Ethan Morton in transition and a Joel Stutz layup off an assist from Morton extended the lead to 48-32 with 3:38 to play. The Tornado knocked down free throws from there.
“They made it a half-court game and cut off our lanes to the basket,” Giannotta said. “And they executed. This was the best I've seen Butler play half-court.”
Morton had nine assists in the contest. He scored only six points, none in the first half.
“That was Ethan's roughest first half offensively all season,” Clement said. “But he did more reps in the gym than anyone. I told him to just be himself and the game would come to him.”
Tyler Frederick had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Tornado. Ollio had 10 points and four rebounds, Joel and Jace Stutz 10 points each.
“We took away the post and just hustled,” Frederick said of Butler's defensive effort. “That's all it was.
“We knew our season could end tonight. None of us wanted that.”
Jace Stutz certainly didn't want that.
With two minutes left and Butler leading 48-35 — Justin Koken having just hit a trey for Seneca — Stutz deflected away a Raider pass and raced an SV player all the way down the floor in pursuit of the ball. Stutz dove on top of the ball and a timeout gave Butler possession.
“Those are the kinds of contributions I can make, diving after a ball,” Stutz said. “It doesn't sound like much, but it can help us win a game.
“We want to keep playing as many games as possible. I was thinking of that on the bus ride down here ... I've been playing basketball with these guys for years. We need to keep it going. That will motivate us in the playoffs.”
Clement smiled as he thought of that Stutz dive.
“Whether it's a summer league game in mid-June or a game we need to make the WPIAL playoffs, Jace or Joel Stutz is going to make that play,” Clement said.
Skalos paced the Raiders with 10 points. Hart had eight points and four rebounds, Mark Smathers six boards.
“Smathers is probably the most improved player in the section,” Clement said. “He killed us at our place (72-65 SV win).
“Seneca Valley deserves to be in the playoffs. Vic is coach of the year in the section as far as I'm concerned.”
Giannotta could only shrug when asked whether the Raiders were a victim of a high-quality section this season.
“You have to play your schedule,” he said. “The kids are the ones I feel badly for.”
Valley’s Chris Hart lays it in as Butler’s Tyler Frederick contests at Seneca
Valley High School Friday. The Raiders fell just short of advancing to the
WPIAL 6A playoffs.
Luke Michalek 0-1 0-0 0, Jace Stutz 3-5 2-2 10, Ian McCarrier 1-1 0-0 3, Jason Gray 0-1 0-0 0, Tyler Frederick 6-12 4-4 16, Connor Ollio 4-6 2-4 10, Ethan Morton 2-10 1-1 6, Cade Negley 0-0 0-0 0, Jace Stutz 3-5 2-2 10. Totals:19-41 11-13 55.
SENECA VALLEY 41
Jacob Bunofsky 1-1 0-0 2, Nate Trzeciak 0-0 0-0 0, Payton Skalos 4-12 0-0 10, Cian Iaria 0-1 0-0 0, Patrick Uher 2-6 2-4 6, Justin Koken 1-3 0-1 3, Marcus Might 2-5 0-1 4, Mark Smathers 3-5 0-0 6, Chris Hart 3-9 0-0 8, Dalton Peffer 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 17-43 2-6 41.
Butler 14 8 16 17 — 55
Seneca Valley9 8 8 16 — 41
3-point goals: Ja.Stutz 2, McCarrier, Morton, Jo.Stutz 2; Skalos 2, Koken, Hart 2
JV: Seneca Valley, 54-44 (B: Pat McLachlin 8, Isiash Scribner 8; SV: Jacob Bunofsky 14, Dalton Peffer 10)
Monday: Armstrong at Butler