Butler helps Latrobe hold off Fox Chapel

Friday, December 21, 2018 | 10:33 PM

Latrobe faced a lot of adversity Friday in the WPIAL Section 3-6A opener against Fox Chapel.

Not only were the Wildcats coming off a 29-point loss Monday to Allderdice, they played without senior guard Reed Fenton for much of the game because of foul trouble.

But the No. 1 Wildcats (6-1, 1-0) didn’t flinch and held on for a thrilling 66-62 victory.

Clutch fourth-quarter free-throw shooting and a splendid effort from senior forward Bryce Butler allowed the Wildcats to have Merry Christmas.

Butler, a West Liberty commit, scored 22 points, pulled down 12 rebounds and blocked five shots.

“I thought Bryce had a great floor game,” Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel said. “He had some incredible passes. To play more than half the game without Reed, a lesser team would have folded.

“Sure there were some mistakes, but the focus was good and everyone understood their role. That was a really good team, and I’m proud of them.”

Latrobe used a 13-0 run to grab a 53-40 lead with 5 minutes, 57 seconds left in the fourth quarter, but Fox Chapel (3-3, 0-1) refused to quit. The Foxes pulled within 55-53 on a basket by Ryan Kerr, who finished with 25 points, with 2:21 left and had a chance to tie the score with 10.4 seconds left with Sam Brown at the free-throw line.

But Brown missed and Fenton, who finished with 18 points, did not. He and Butler connected on free throws in the final eight seconds.

Latrobe was 10 for 13 in the second half and 7 for 9 in the fourth quarter.

Fenton started the game quickly, scoring the Wildcats’ first six points. But he picked up his second foul with 1:40 left in the first quarter and went to the bench.

He got his third foul with 5:51 left in the first half, but that’s when Butler took over.

Butler scored eight points in the quarter as the Wildcats forced the ball inside to the 6-foot-5 forward.

“We definitely didn’t want to lose the first section game,” Butler said. “We went out and got it done. Allderdice is a very good team, and it was good for us to rebound the way we did. We rebounded well, especially on the offensive end. We put an emphasis on getting the ball inside, and we got it going. That’s where the game turned.”

Fox Chapel’s found its drive in the third quarter after trailing 24-20 at halftime.

Kerr scored eight points in the quarter, and his three foul shots with 4:39 left in the third quarter gave the Foxes a 34-32 lead.

Late in the quarter Fenton picked up his fourth foul with 1:24 left, but the Wildcats were unfazed as they went on their 13-0 run.

“It was a good one to get,” Wetzel said. “You play a team like Allderdice, and you wonder how the younger guys will react.

“I knew on Tuesday that this wasn’t a team that was going to wither and fall away. I have faith in the team, and if we continue to grow this could be a special ball club.”

Ryan Sickenberger chipped in with 12 points for the Wildcats, hitting three 3-pointers, two in the third quarter.

Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar said he was proud of his team’s effort.

“The last few losses I didn’t feel we competed like we did (Friday),” Skrinjar said. “We knew they were a good team. I don’t think we believe in moral victories, but I told them hold their heads up because we executed the game plan.

“We gave our chance to win the game at the end, and that’s all you can ask for. I thought we did a good job on Bryce, but we gave up too many second-chance opportunities.”

The teams are scheduled to meet again Jan. 22.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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