Road Warriors: Penn-Trafford keeps playoff hopes alive

Tuesday, February 7, 2023 | 10:25 PM

From the bottom of the section to the WPIAL playoffs?

Penn-Trafford just might pull it off.

The Road Warriors did it again. Penn-Trafford, saving its best for last, won for the third time in four games to keep their flickering postseason hopes alive.

The Warriors rallied from a slow start to take down host Latrobe, another team looking to advance out of the bumper-to-bumper Section 3-5A race, 64-62, on Tuesday night.

Penn-Trafford (6-15, 3-6) was coming off a surprising win at McKeesport, and also won recently at Franklin Regional.

“It’s about being locked in,” Warriors coach Doug Kelly said. “Our guys come to work every day, and it prepares us for games like this. I am thrilled for them. This is our first win here in 10 years.”

Tyler Freas scored 19 points, and Jason Sabol added 14 for Penn-Trafford, which has one section game at home Friday against Kiski Area to have a shot at the postseason.

Latrobe (8-13, 3-6) still can qualify with one section game left Saturday afternoon at Gateway.

If the Wildcats, Warriors and Franklin Regional all win or all lose their final section game, all three would qualify because they would all split against each other.

If two of them tie, both advance.

The Warriors, Wildcats and Panthers are all tied for fourth place.

Franklin Regional plays at McKeesport on Friday.

“Their backs are against the wall, so we knew they would come in and play us tough,” said Latrobe guard Landon Butler, who had 28 points. “It’s a dog fight in our section. Everyone is still alive for a playoff spot.”

Penn-Trafford held Latrobe to one field goal in the final three minutes — a Butler 3-pointer with 11 seconds left — and made free throws down the stretch to clinch the win.

“We rebounded well and made clutch free throws,” Freas said. “We’re not surprised by how we’re playing right now. We expected it.”

In a game of runs, Penn-Trafford came back from a 52-45 deficit to take a 56-54 lead on a putback by Ian Temple.

The Warriors led 60-56 on two free throws from Brayden Stone with 1:28 to play.

Butler made two free throws to get the Wildcats within 60-58, but Carmen Metcalfe rebounded a missed free throw and made one of his own for a 61-58 lead with 59 seconds.

Stone made two more fouls for a 63-59 edge before Butler’s fourth 3-pointer.

“The Butler saga continues,” Kelly said. “Latrobe is always one of the best programs in Westmoreland County. Brad does a great job here. Their style is fun to watch.

“Our role guys really stepped up and did a great job tonight.”

The Wildcats had a chance to win it with 3 seconds left, but Jack Drnjevich’s 3 missed and Sabol pulled down the rebound.

Latrobe looked in control in the third when it scored 22 points. It forced a flurry of turnovers midway through the third to jump back in front.

An 8-2 run allowed them to take a 44-42 edge, with Butler scoring off a steal and then off a cut.

Butler had nine straight points in the third — 11 overall — to help Latrobe stretch the margin to 52-47 heading to the final quarter.

Max Butler, who had nine points, also knocked down a 3 in the third.

Penn-Trafford clawed its way back from a 10-1 deficit to take a 16-15 lead after the first quarter.

Freas scored nine in the opening eight minutes, including a pair of 3-pointers.

Latrobe cut it to 18-17 in the second quarter, but the Warriors went on a 10-3 run to pull ahead, 28-20.

Freshman Zach Feldman put back a miss to make it 32-23, but Darius Davis hit a 3 and Alex Tatsch made a layup to close the gap to 34-30 at the half.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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