Tornado grind their way to WPIAL fi nals, 54-36
By John Enrietto
Eagle Sports Editor
FOX CHAPEL — You can't win if you can't score.
You can't win if you foul Ethan Morton, either.
Woodland Hills discovered both of those facts Wednesday night as Butler cruised to a 54-36 victory in their WPIAL Class 6A boys basketball semifinal match-up at Fox Chapel High School.
The Wolverines (16-9) average 68.5 points per game, but were held to a season-low 36 — only 22 over the final three quarters. Their previous low mark this season was 47 in their 47-43 playoff win over Mt. Lebanon.
“We wanted to slow the pace of this game down ... still play our game, but grind it out,” Butler senior center Tyler Frederick said.
“We wanted to take away their speed, their big strength.”
The Golden Tornado (17-8) won their sixth straight game in front of a packed house and will take on Pine-Richland (23-1) — an 85-62 winner over North Hills — in the 6A title game at 9 p.m. Saturday at the University of Pittsburgh's Petersen Event Center. The Rams defeated Butler in a pair of close games during the regular season.
Butler will be making its first appearance in the WPIAL Finals since 2000 and its fourth in the program's history. Its only WPIAL championship was in 1991 — Butler coach Matt Clement's sophomore year on the team.
“This was like a home game for us,” Clement said of Wednesday's win. “When I saw our crowd begin filling up seats on their (Woodland Hills) side ... It was amazing.
“The only bad thing about tonight was that some Butler people probably got turned away at the door and couldn't get in.”
What could get in was the basketball — into the hoop, that is, virtually every time freshman guard Morton tossed up a free throw.
Morton was 12 of 14 from the foul line — eight of 10 in the fourth quarter — and scored a game-high 23 points. He added six rebounds, four assists and four steals as well.
“I'm not surprised by what he did tonight ... not at all,” Clement said.
Butler was 20 of 25 from the line as a team and has connected on 55 of 65 free throws in the WPIAL Tournament.
“That's a pretty good clip,” Clement said.
It was a free throw that helped give the Tornado their first lead of the night.
Connor Ollio, Jace Stutz (12) and Jefferson Ford (44)celebrate a 3-point shot
Wednesday, March 1, 2017, during the Golden Tornado's 54-36 win over Woodland
Hills in the WPIAL Class 6A semifinals at Fox Chapel High School.
falling behind 7-0 less than two minutes into the game, the Tornado whittled
away until Morton completed a three-point play with 2.3 seconds left in the
first half. That put Butler ahead, 23-21, at halftime, its first lead of the
Woodland Hills tied the game three times in the first three minutes of the third quarter, but Butler never trailed again.
Clement called a timeout after that 7-0 deficit just 1:32 into the game.
“He told us to stay calm, to keep our cool,” Morton said. “He was completely confident in us and we were confident in ourselves.”
“They were hitting shots and we weren't,” Clement said. “I just wanted to stop their momentum.”
Butler took the lead for good on another three-point play by Morton with 4:55 left in the third quarter. Jason Gray added a free throw for a four-point lead and a Tyler Frederick layup hiked the margin to seven by the end of the third quarter.
Luke Michalek — Butler's starting point guard before Morton came along — drained a trey early in the fourth quarter for a 10-point bulge.
“I was a little hesitant to shoot in the third quarter ... That shot felt good rolling off my fingers,” Michalek said. “I have a different role now and I've come to embrace it.
“Ethan is a great player. It seems like he can do whatever he wants with the basketball.”
A trey by Joel Stutz and four free throws by Morton widened the Tornado lead to 46-31 with 4:26 left and the celebration was on.
“We feel pretty comfortable with (Morton) standing at the foul line,” Frederick said. “We know those shots are going in.”
Frederick had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Tornado. Michalek had six rebounds and two assists, Joel Stutz three assists.
Amante Britt paced Woodland Hills with 19 points. Deontae Robertson had 11 points and 11 rebounds after torching Butler with 32 points during a 69-67 regular season win over the Tornado.
Wolverine starters Khalil Wilson and Robertson fouled out in the fourth quarter as Woodland Hills struggled to guard Morton.
“That was our big guys coming out to help because their defenders were glued to our outside shooters,” Morton said. “I had room to make plays because of them.”
Clement said Butler's trip to the WPIAL Finals is for past players as much as the current ones.
“We got to the semifinals twice before and were so amped up to get to that final round that we didn't play well and things didn't go well for us those other two times,” he said.
“This is for Logan Renwick, Dom Pusateri, Bobby Swartwout, Nate Snodgrass, Cody Herald, Jeff and David Tompkins ... just to name a few of the many who wanted to be here just as badly as these guys do.”
WOODLAND HILLS 36
Kenny Lee 1-8 0-0 2, Keandre Bowles 0-2 0-0 0, Naszhur Taylor 0-1 0-0 0, Dashon Mockabee 0-1 0-0 0, Deontae Robertson 4-9 1-2 11, Khalil Wilson 0-2 1-2 1, Amante Britt 8-15 3-6 19, Tyese Robinson 1-3 1-2 3. Totals: 14-42 6-12 36.
Luke Michalek 1-3 0-0 3, Jace Stutz 0-1 0-0 0, Jason Gray 1-3 1-2 4, Tyler Frederick 4-8 5-7 13, Connor Ollio 3-6 0-0 6, Ethan Morton 5-11 12-14 23, Joel Stutz 1-5 2-2 5, Jefferson Ford 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-37 20-25 54.
Woodland Hills 14 7 8 7 — 36
Butler13 10 13 18 — 54
3-point goals: Robertson 2; Michalek, Gray, Morton, Jo.Stutz
Saturday: WPIAL Class 6A championship-Butler vs. Pine-Richland, Petersen Event Center, 9 p.m.