Mt. Lebanon shows patience in WPIAL championship win over Butler
Saturday, March 2, 2019 | 11:21 PM
Mt. Lebanon wanted to keep the ball out of Ethan Morton’s hands, so the Blue Devils just held onto it themselves.
With a two-point lead and 6 minutes left, Mt. Lebanon slowed the pace, ate the clock and used a couple of long possessions to defeat Butler, 62-57, in the WPIAL Class 6A final Saturday night at Petersen Events Center.
The Blue Devils weren’t necessarily stalling, but they also weren’t in any hurry.
“We just always try to find the best shot,” said Mt. Lebanon junior Jake Hoffman — even if that required a dozen passes.
The Blue Devils waited nine years between winning WPIAL titles, so they were willing to wait a little more.
Their first long possession consumed more than two minutes with a couple of offensive rebounds included before Hoffman made an open 3-pointer with 3:35 left — his fifth 3 and the team’s eighth.
Hoffman scored a breakaway layup seconds later to lead 56-49.
“My guys were tired and I had two guys with four fouls,” Mt. Lebanon coach Joe David said. “I knew if I could shorten this thing up, it’s going to be OK. I said be patient. If they start trying to scramble (on defense), then look for a layup.”
Morton wasn’t surprised. The Butler star predicted it in a text message to coach Matt Clement just the night before after watching more game film. They understood that Mt. Lebanon would be trouble with a late lead.
“If they get any kind of lead in the fourth quarter, they’re going to try to hold the ball,” Morton said. “That’s their game. I watched them do it countless times.”
Morton tried to speed them up — and he scored five points of his team-high 21 points in the fourth — but Mt. Lebanon outscored Butler, 11-8, in the final 6 minutes. Morton and freshman Devin Carney tried to test Mt. Lebanon’s patience but their 3-pointers missed in the closing seconds.
“They do a really good job of running clock when they’ve got a lead,” Clement said. “I thought we did a pretty good job, probably as good a job as anybody’s done against them this year in that situation.”
Butler scored 20 points in the third quarter and only 11 in the fourth.
The WPIAL title was Mt. Lebanon’s fourth overall and third under David.
“It’s been nine years and the appreciation for being here (in the finals) and particularly winning, it is unbelievable,” David said. “But these guys — I’ve been doing this 18 years — are some of the hardest working guys that I’ve had.”
Sean Loughran scored 21 points and Hoffman added 19 for third-seeded Mt. Lebanon (22-3), which went 8 for 31 from beyond the 3-point line. Hoffman made five 3s and Loughran added three.
Fifth-seeded Butler (20-5) has waited even longer than Mt. Lebanon to celebrate. The Tornado was seeking its first WPIAL title since 1991 — when Clement was still a player. That made Saturday’s close loss more painful.
Butler also finished as WPIAL runner-up in 2017 during Morton’s freshman year.
“As the leader of this team, I feel like I let everybody down,” Morton said, “the community, coach and my teammates. I’m just disappointed right now.”
“He’s going to take responsibility — just like I’m going to take responsibility — even though he didn’t lose the game,” Clement said. “That’s why he’s getting recruited the way he is, because he expects to make that shot or make that pass, whatever the case may be.”
Mt. Lebanon won 87-60 when the two teams met Dec. 18, so there was no need to manage the clock then. The rematch was much closer, in part because of Morton, who went 8 for 15 shooting from the field and grabbed 15 rebounds. Carney scored 13 points and Luke Patten added 12 points.
“We held (Morton) to 12 points at our place without an outside shot,” David said. “He’s just so good that we knew we couldn’t do that again.”
Mt. Lebanon led 15-11 after one quarter Saturday, 30-26 at half and 47-46 after three.
Butler forced a 38-38 tie late in the third on a layup by Patten, but Mt. Lebanon never trailed after halftime.
The last Butler lead was 7-5 in the first quarter.
“It’s just amazing,” Hoffman said. “All of our goals just came true.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .