Butler basketball team experiencing growing pains
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Butler faced the best WPIAL Section 3-AAAA boys basketball had to offer.
The Golden Tornado came away impressed.
New Castle, the defending WPIAL champ, beat Butler, 74-56, to open section play, and Hampton, the WPIAL runner-up, followed with an 80-52 triumph over the Tornado.
It was quite the daunting start for Butler in the section. But coach Matt Clement knows it will make his team better.
“I like it that way. It makes you get tougher from the get-go,” he said. “We had a tough game against New Castle. They are in midseason form, and we're in the process of getting everybody going together. It was a bad combination. I think we learned a lot. The practice coming off that I thought was one of the best we've had.
“One thing is, it will make you mentally tough. You'll go through ups and downs, but the question is how do you respond? If you want to be a playoff team, you have to respond. You really have to keep a mental focus and your head down and grind away in our section and try to win every game you can and see where you are at the end.”
The Tornado have a young squad. The team has two seniors — Rich Marnic and Cory Wheeler — who did not play basketball last season. Large junior and sophomore classes return from last year's 6-15 squad, Clement's first sub-.500 team in his five-year tenure.
“It puts us behind the 8-ball because having experienced seniors is so important to any team,” Clement said. “With how daunting our section is, it puts you in a tougher situation. Fortunately — or unfortunately — for us, a lot of young guys got a chance to play last year. A lot of sophomores got a chance to play, but it was in a losing environment.”
Butler opened this season with a victory over Slippery Rock, but dropped a 91-85 shootout to Class A power Vincentian. Butler rebounded for a 65-54 win over Perry Traditional Academy before beginning section play against Class AAAA's top-ranked squads.
“The biggest hurdle for me is to get us over the hump and learn how to win as a group and a team,” Clement said. “I am not happy with any losses. Have we seen some potential progress out of some players? Yeah. We just haven't been able to put it together.
“I have a very nice junior class. We're about 10 players deep. The big hurdle for us is to get a majority of the players to play well on the same night. We have had a lot of games where three or four play really well and three or four play OK and three or four play not so well. For us to be successful, especially being so young, we have to have a majority of our players come out and play consistently.”
Nick Patten, Arum Krause, Keenan Krause, Mark Gross, Justice Lewandowski, Eric Hindman and Andrew Paterno are some of the juniors who have logged a lot of minutes. Freshman Tyler Frederick has made an impact off the bench as well.
“It's exciting because we have a lot of young players who will be here and leave their mark on the program,” Clement said. “It puts it on me as the coach to find out the right combination to make it work.”
Clement knows his team faces a daunting task in the section, which produced all four WPIAL semifinalists last year — New Castle, Hampton, Seneca Valley and North Allegheny. He's quick to rattle off that, in the past three years, eight of the 12 WPIAL semifinalists have come from the section — including Butler in 2011 and '12.
“It's fun grinding every night. You just have to know what you're in for,” Clement said. “In the long run, I think it'll help these kids as basketball players and students. Nothing is taken for granted. The kids in this section work really hard and the coaches put together solid programs. I like to compete with people like that.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Presto emphasizes defense for Baldwin girls basketball
- Baldwin boys basketball looks to seniors
- Helton, Ford, O’Malley set to lead Rebels’ basketball in 2015-16
- Valley boys on learning curve
- New Valley girls coach still getting acclimated
- Boosters’ tip-off basketball tournament on tap at Brentwood
- Connellsville boys expecting to compete for postseason spot
- Latrobe girls basketball confident they can compete with elite teams in Section 1
- WPIAL Class AA girls basketball preview: Seton-La Salle’s 4th coach in 5 seasons offers unique perspective
- Plum girls basketball has high hopes with four returning starters
- Ligonier Valley basketball team set for season