Hot-shooting Pine-Richland tops Butler, clinches at least share of section title
By: Chris Harlan
Tuesday, January 29, 2019 | 9:42 PM
Butler’s defense was in a zone Tuesday night and so were Pine-Richland’s shooters.
Dan Petcash scored 29 points with five 3-pointers, Greg Shulkosky added 21 and hot-shooting Pine-Richland clinched at least a share of the Section 1-6A title with a 95-76 victory at Butler.
Butler started in a 3-2 zone, switched to a 1-2-2 and tried a 1-3-1, but couldn’t disrupt the Rams’ shooters. They shot 61 percent from the 3-point line, 58 percent overall and had five scorers reach double figures.
“It’s hard to beat a team when they don’t miss many shots,” Pine-Richland coach Jeff Ackermann said. “We shot the ball really well tonight.”
The Rams made 10 3-pointers in the first half, added five more in the third quarter and led by 22 points early in the fourth. When Butler eventually was forced into a man-to-man defense, Pine-Richland turned mismatches into driving layups.
“It’s hard to sit here and say, ‘Hey, we had a pretty good defensive night,’ because we didn’t,” Butler coach Matt Clement said. “They torched us. But at the same time, there were a lot of contested shots that they made in that game – in between the open ones.”
Kyle Polce scored 14 points, Patrick Shanahan had 12 and Colin Luellen added 11 for second-ranked Pine-Richland (16-2, 8-0), which now holds a two-game lead over No. 5 Butler (13-4, 6-2).
In all, the Rams went 16 for 26 from 3-point range.
“As a team, we were moving the ball really well,” said Petcash, who went 5 for 8 from the arc and finished 11 for 18 overall.
Shulkosky and Polce made three 3s apiece, Shanahan and Logan Murray each had two and Luellen added one.
Butler doesn’t matchup up well with Pine-Richland man-to-man, so the Rams prepared to face a zone.
“We made a couple of tweaks to the way we attack it,” Ackermann said. “We moved some guys around. We wanted ball movement and open shots and we got that. But even if you’re open, you’re not guaranteed to make shots.
“We made them tonight.”
Pine-Richland also made a few defensive tweaks for handling Butler star Ethan Morton.
When Pine-Richland defeated Butler, 79-74, on Jan. 8, Ackermann had his defense play Morton straight up man-to-man and focused instead on shutting out his teammates.
Morton scored a school-record 51 that night.
This time, Pine-Richland mixed in some zone and provided more defensive help. Morton scored a team-high 20 points but nine of those came in the fourth quarter.
“My biggest fear was having my team foul out guarding him,” Ackermann said. “I didn’t want to let that happen, so I protected our guys.”
Butler’s Mason Montag added 19 points and Devin Carney had 15.
The Golden Tornado didn’t shoot poorly. They made 57 percent from the field (30-53) and 50 percent from 3-point range (13-26). But Morton had only four points in the first quarter and four more in the second as Butler trailed 21-11 after one quarter and 44-32 at half.
“We frustrated him, I know that,” Ackermann said. “We tried to get bodies there. I challenged my guys to take charges. Don’t try to block shots, try to take charges. Make them go around us and make tough shots.”
The Rams alternated between man-to-man, a 1-3-1 zone and a 2-2-1 full-court press.
“We tried to confuse him a little bit by switching every possession,” Petcash said. “I thought we did a pretty good job of that.”
The win gave Pine-Richland a two-game lead in the section with two games left, guaranteeing at least a share of the title. The Rams finish with North Hills and Central Catholic.
“We knew this was a championship game,” Ackermann said. “Winning the section gives you a Top 1, 2 or 3 seed and a (first-round playoff) bye. That’s what we were playing for tonight. I told our guys that all week. We were ready for it.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.