Butler completes another crazy comeback, defeats Upper St. Clair in PIAA 2nd round

Wednesday, March 11, 2020 | 10:31 PM

The question on everybody’s mind this week in Butler was: How is Ethan Morton’s injured ankle?

“I thought it was kind of humorous,” coach Matt Clement said. “That was the question of the day the whole three days in Butler. People asked: Does someone need to drive him somewhere? Did you hear about that $10,000 (treatment) they do? We’ll make a GoFundMe page for him.”

Everyone wanted to lift the burden off Butler’s superstar, including his teammates.

Morton was cautious for three quarters Wednesday night before scoring 16 of his 21 points in the fourth as Butler completed another comeback win, this time defeating Upper St. Clair, 77-73, in a PIAA Class 6A second-round victory at Robert Morris’ UPMC Events Center.

“In the fourth quarter I was just like, no matter how good (the ankle) is, I’ve just got to go after it,” Morton said. “This could be my last game.”

Upper St. Clair had led by nine points with 5 minutes left but was outscored 18-5 down the stretch behind Morton and junior Mattix Clement, who scored a game-high 26 points.

After seeing Morton hobbled in the first round, Clement felt he had to do more.

“I did and everyone else did as well,” he said. “We were able to pick it up for him.”

Morton and sophomore Devin Carney have shouldered the scoring responsibilities in the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs, but Butler showed Wednesday that it’s more than a two-man team.

The Golden Tornado (22-4) advance to face District 10 champion Erie McDowell (23-3) in a quarterfinal Saturday at a site and time to be determined.

“Mattix was huge tonight,” Morton said. “His hustle plays, his 3s, his rebounds and passes, everything was so impressive. He seems to get better every game. He’s quiet, he doesn’t always show it, but the heart that he has is unquestioned.”

Carney added 12 points and Charles Kreinbucher had 11. Morton didn’t need to overextend himself in the first three quarters thanks in large part to Clement, who scored 14 of his team’s first 20 points.

Clement finished with five 3-pointers.

“I know it was a little extra motivation for Mattix to pick up Ethan,” Matt Clement said. “He’s been playing basketball with him since he was in second grade. When people ask me about Mattix, it’s pure and simple: He doesn’t want it to end.”

Butler took a 71-70 lead on two free throws by Clement with 2:20 left. Trailing by a point, he attacked the basket and drew the foul. Clement and Morton combined scored the team’s final 10 points.

“That’s why they’re a really good team,” USC coach Danny Holzer said. “They have multiple weapons.”

This was the second time in two weeks that Butler and Upper St. Clair (21-5) met at RMU’s new arena. Butler used overtime to defeat Upper St. Clair, 83-78, in a WPIAL semifinal Feb. 26.

This time, USC was ahead for almost the entire night.

The Panthers held a 12-point lead early in fourth quarter and still led 68-59 with 5 minutes left. Ethan Dahlem scored 20 points for the Panthers and David Pantelis added 12 on four 3-pointers.

The scoring of Morton and Carney has led Butler’s run through the playoffs, so USC decided to trap the two whenever possible. When the teams met in February, Morton scored 32 points and Carney had a game-high 35.

This time, Carney had only eight points in the first three quarters and Morton had five.

“It was working until the fourth quarter,” Holzer said. “We started missing shots. I think we got a little gassed. It’s hard to make shots late and then (Morton) just kept scoring.”

Upper St. Clair went 5 for 18 shooting in the fourth quarter, misses that let Butler score in transition. USC made only two shots in the final 5 minutes, a layup by Luke Gensler near the 3-minute mark and a step-back 3-pointer by Josh Russell with 58 seconds left.

Morton went 5 for 6 from the field and 6 for 9 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.

Led by its pressure defense, USC outscored Butler 32-23 in a hectic first quarter and 44-38 in the first half. Dahlem scored 14 first-half points including 12 in the first quarter as USC sprinted to a 24-10 lead.

Butler briefly went ahead in the third quarter on a layup by Clement to lead 51-50. USC answered with consecutive 3-pointers by Gensler, Landon Rauch and Andrew Casey. When Rauch followed with a layup, USC led 61-51 after three.

“I thought we had them,” Holzer said, “but Morton is a special player.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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