Butler, Mt. Lebanon are familiar foes in WPIAL Class 6A championship rematch

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Saturday, February 29, 2020 | 8:00 PM


Butler was in the locker room getting ready for its semifinal at Robert Morris’ new arena, but senior Ethan Morton tried to catch a little of Mt. Lebanon’s game ahead of theirs.

“I was peeking in and out,” he said.

Likewise, after Mt. Lebanon defeated Central Catholic, the Blue Devils hung around to watch Butler face Upper St. Clair, and then listened to the second half on the bus ride home.

There probably wasn’t too much new to learn.

For two schools not in the same section, these teams already know one another better than most. No. 1 seed Butler (19-4) faces No. 3 Mt. Lebanon (18-6) in the WPIAL Class 6A final at 9 p.m. Saturday at Petersen Events Center. It’s a rematch of last year’s championship and will be their fourth matchup in two seasons.

Butler won 75-71 when the teams met Dec. 17 at Butler, but it was Mt. Lebanon that won 62-57 last winter in the WPIAL finals.

“It’s always a fun matchup to play them,” said Morton, who’s making his third WPIAL championship appearance. “It was super fun to play them at home (in December). As much as it sucks to lose, it was fun to play them in the championship last year. You know it’s going to be a great game. Two well-coached teams and a program you have so much respect for. I’m excited for it.”

Mt. Lebanon seeks its fourth WPIAL title since 2006. Butler, the runner-up in 2017 and ’19, hasn’t won a WPIAL title since 1991.

“It’s really good for Butler (to return to the finals),” Butler coach Matt Clement said. “People here, they live and die with the basketball team. They’ve rallied around us. It’s been like that since I’ve gotten the job. Getting back was important.”

A championship rematch in the WPIAL’s largest classification is rare. It’s happened only once since the WPIAL expanded to four classifications in 1984. New Castle defeated Hampton in the Class 4A final in 2013 and 2014.

But that doesn’t mean both Butler and Mt. Lebanon are the same teams a year later.

Butler’s lineup is very similar, with Morton (6-foot-6), sophomore Devin Carney (5-11), junior Mattix Clement (6-1) and senior Mason Montag (6-4) all in the starting lineup. The team had to replace senior Luke Patten (6-4), who was lost to a preseason injury, with sophomore Charles Kreinbucher (6-5).

“Patten was a huge, huge cog,” Clement said. “I think that shows the grit and how much the other guys on that court have grown up. They’ve grown up because of that.”

Mt. Lebanon had far more turnover.

The Blue Devils returned only two starters from last year’s championship lineup, Jake Hoffman (6-3) and Blaine Gartley (5-10), both seniors. Hoffman averaged 21 points this season and Gartley averaged 15. Andrew Sapp (6-3), Joseph King (6-4) and Jake Reinke (6-3) joined them in the lineup. Sapp and King are seniors, and Reinke is a junior.

Mt. Lebanon is a different team from last winter, but also a different team since that December matchup with Butler, David said. That was only the team’s fifth game, so the newcomers hadn’t quite fit into their roles yet.

“When we lost that game (in December), I said that we were going to see those guys again,” David said.

Butler owns the highest-scoring offense in WPIAL Class 6A at 71.7 points per game. Mt. Lebanon owns one of the stingiest defenses, allowing just 50.8.

“If they want to have a track meet or slow us down,” David said, “we could play whatever way they want to play.”

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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