Butler's 3rd-quarter surge guides Latrobe past rival Hempfield
Just like the first time it played Latrobe this season, Hempfield got the fast start it wanted. But once again, Latrobe finished.
And once again, the Butler did it.
WPIAL scoring leader Austin Butler regained his shooting touch in a big way after a slow start, scoring 18 points in the third quarter and 28 of his game-high 31 in the second half to power the No. 4 Wildcats to a 77-58 win over pesky Hempfield Tuesday night in a Section 3-6A boys basketball game at Latrobe.
“As close as it was at halftime, we were out of sync,” said Butler, who also grabbed 11 rebounds. “I felt good shooting coming out (in the third) and it was time for me to take over. I let it come to me more and played within myself.”
Playoff-bound Latrobe (15-3, 9-2) remains in third place in the section — a game back of No. 2 Fox Chapel (17-1, 10-1) and Penn No. 3 Hills (16-2, 10-1) — while Hempfield (7-12, 4-7) remains in the playoff chase with three section games left. The Spartans are a game back of Woodland Hills (11-7, 5-6) for fourth place. The top four teams make the playoffs.
“With the 15-minute delay I think we came out a little out of sync; our guys were ready to go (at 7:30),” Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel said. “Two games ago, several of our guys started to shoot it well again. You could feel it coming. We hadn't had all three (Butler, Jake Biss and Reed Fenton) go off like that.”
Fenton scored 16 and Biss finished with 14 in the win.
The game started more than 30 minutes late after the junior varsity game went to double-overtime (Hempfield won 76-73). Whether that played a part in Latrobe's play early — it didn't seem to bother Hempfield — is a moot point now. Latrobe didn't quite look like itself until its decisive third quarter when Butler opened with back-to-back 3-pointers. Swish and swish.
“Once we got going and got things spread out, it all seemed to open up for us,” Wetzel said. “We knew Hempfield would play us tough again. It doesn't matter what the records are when we play Hempfield.”
The Wildcats needed a spark to repel the Spartans, who kept pushing back. Butler provided a flamethrower.
He followed with a smooth fadeaway in the lane, then Reed Fenton hit a 3. A three-point play and a finger roll followed for Butler as Latrobe turned a 30-29 deficit into a 57-44 lead with 1:05 left in the third.
Latrobe outscored Hempfield, 30-21, during a fast-paced third.
Butler, Latrobe's all-time leading boys scorer, made four 3-pointers in the second half. He even tried one with his foot nearly touching the jump circle. He made 11 3s in one game this season — when he scored 48 — and had a stretch where he only made five over several games.
Hempfield still wouldn't go away as Parker Lucas hit a 3 to cut it to 61-56 with 5:23 left in the game. More Butler: two free throws and a finger roll upped the Wildcats' advantage to 70-57.
Free throws iced the win, their fifth in a row. Nick Bobula was 4 for 4 from the line down the stretch. Latrobe only had three field goals in the fourth, all by Butler, but made 11 of 14 free throws.
Hempfield had two field goals in the final eight minutes.
“What we do from here is in our hands,” Butler said, referring to the team still having a shot at the section title. “Each team we play is in the way of our goal.”
Hempfield — not Latrobe — dictated an uptempo start and took advantage of turnovers in the first quarter. It scored the game's first seven points and rolled to a 17-8 lead. Reed Hipps and Zak Mesich hit 3-pointers and Clark Pederson scored five points as the Spartans led 19-16 after one quarter.
With Butler held in check, Biss brought the Wildcats back in the second. Fenton and Biss made consecutive 3-pointers, Fenton's giving the Wildcats their first lead of the night, at 24-23, with two minutes left before the half.
Biss hit a short jumper and Justin Silkowski made a high-banking shot for Hempfield as the Wildcats took a 29-28 lead into the break.
“In the second quarter it was 23-18 for almost an hour,” Hempfield coach Bill Swan said. “That was a testament to our defense. We had four turnovers and an air ball when we had a chance to (take a larger lead). You knew (Latrobe) was going to come back. We came up the steps (after halftime) and Austin Butler only had three points. We were pretty happy. Our guys are so tough and just keep playing.”
Hempfield got 13 points from Braden Brose, 11 in the second half, and 12 from Reed Hipps. Zach Queen chipped in 10 for Hempfield.
In the teams' first meeting, which was much more chippy and abrasive, Latrobe led 37-34 at halftime after trailing 19-18 after the first quarter. But the Wildcats again used a big third-quarter surge and Butler scored 30 in an 80-63 win.