Trib HSSN boys basketball player of the week: Week ending Feb. 23, 2020

Monday, February 24, 2020 | 10:35 PM

The top-seed in the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs was in trouble. If ever there was a time for some Morton magic, it was with time winding down in the first overtime.

Butler senior Ethan Morton hit a desperation shot in the paint as the buzzer sounded to force a second overtime as he and his Golden Tornado teammates pulled out a thrilling 78-76 quarterfinals victory Saturday over upset-minded Peters Township.

“I guess he wasn’t ready for his high school season to come to an end,” Butler coach Matt Clement said. “

When I saw who we were playing, I didn’t like the matchup. It was a bad combination because they have good players and are very well-coached. I’m not surprised how hard it was to win.”

Trailing by two and with time winding down, Clement was surprised Morton drove and went for the tie instead of launching a 3-pointer.

“I thought he would go for the win. He had space and is very dangerous,” Clement said. “However they (Peters) didn’t want to foul him. It was a tough shot, but I have seen him make it before.”

After forcing a second overtime, Morton continued to shine as he finished 32 points — 21 coming after the third quarter. He also finished with 18 rebounds.

Being the No. 1 seed is something different for Butler, a team that has reached the WPIAL championship game in two of the last three years as a lower seed.

“I had a funny feeling about this one,” Clement said. “We’re not used to being in that role as the team with the target, and I wasn’t sure how we would react.”

The Golden Tornado survived and advanced to the semifinals Wednesday against surging Upper St. Clair at Robert Morris.

“I’m good friends with everybody on our side of the schedule,” Clement said. “I’m really close to Danny (Holzer, USC coach) because he mentored me when I first started coaching and still helps me out a lot.

“They are really good and the hottest team in the class. I’m very familiar with their players. We really have our work cut out for us.”

Morton is one of the better players to come out of the WPIAL in years, and there is a strong sentiment that perhaps this is the year the Golden Tornado win a title.

The 6-foot-6 guard will play at Purdue, and Clement doesn’t hesitate when asked what makes Morton so good.

“Because of how he passes and facilitates the basketball,” Clement said. “He is a good communicator. He has a high IQ, and he’s great at seeing this develop on the floor. He is not afraid to make some of the passes he does. He will be good at the next level at getting more people involved.”

Honorable mention

Jake Hoffman, Mt. Lebanon

The Mt. Lebanon senior knows how to start fast. After beginning this season by scoring 30 points in four straight games, Hoffman decided to up his game in the postseason. He scored 40 points as the defending WPIAL champions rolled past section rival Bethel Park and into the Class 5A semifinals.

Michael Carmody, Mars

Most opponents of two-time defending WPIAL Class 5A champion Mars have a similar gameplan: get 6-6 senior Michael Carmody in foul trouble. It sort of worked for South Fayette in a quarterfinals game. Carmody picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter, but his coach Rob Carmody — Michael’s dad — stuck with him and it paid off. Carmody finished with 23 points and 19 rebounds in the Fightin’ Planets victory.

Isaac DeGregorio, North Catholic

No. 2 North Catholic was facing a familiar Class 3A quarterfinals foe in No. 7 Carlynton. The Trojans had two double-digit victories over the Cougars in the regular season, but things were closer in the third meeting. senior Isaac DeGregorio amped up his game, finishing with 34 points as North Catholic advanced with a five-point win.

Previous Trib HSSN Players of the Week:

Week 9 – Colin McQuiston, Shenango

Week 8 – Riley Comforti, Southmoreland

Week 7 – Rodney Gallagher, Laurel Highlands

Week 6 – Dylan Cook, Leechburg

Week 5 – Vinny Cugini, Aquinas Academy

Week 4 – Frank Stumpo, Keystone Oaks

Week 3 – Adou Thiero, Quaker Valley

Week 2 – Camden Polak, Steel Valley

Week 1 – Jake Hoffman, Mt. Lebanon

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