Victory was within Upper St. Clair’s grasp again, but for the second time in two weeks, Butler (22-4) came from behind to defeat the Panthers 77-73 and dash their hopes for a state championship.
As they did in a WPIAL semifinal overtime game two weeks ago, the Panthers had the advantage against the Golden Tornado in a PIAA Class 6A tournament game played March 11 at Robert Morris University’s UPMC Events Center. Only this time their lead was double digits. USC led Butler by as much as 63-51.
Ethan Morton, a Purdue recruit, scored 21 points, 16 in the fourth quarter as Butler outscored USC 26-12. Morton sunk 4 of 5 free throws in the final 1:52 of play to seal the victory.
“Morton is a special player,” said USC head coach Dan Holzer. “He’s a difference-maker. He’s that good.”
Mattix Clement was good, too. The Butler junior scored a game-high 26 points, 14 in the first quarter where USC outscored Butler 32-23. Clement also kept the Golden Tornado in the contest with two of his five 3-pointers and eight points in the third quarter.
Devin Carney scored 12 points and Charles Kreinbucher added 11 for Butler.
“That’s why they’re such a good team,” Holzer said. “They have multiple weapons.”
USC’s big weapon was Ethan Dahlem. The pint-sized point guard scored 12 of his team-high 18 points in the first quarter as the Panthers notched the first seven points of the game.
Three-point plays by David Pantelis, who finished with 14 points, and Jack Moore enabled USC to build up a 27-12 advantage with 1:57 still remaining in the first quarter. The Panthers knocked down 5 of 12 3-pointers in the quarter.
USC weathered several Butler comebacks. When the Golden Tornado took its first lead 51-50 the Panthers responded with an 11-0 run fueled by Josh Russell and Landon Rauch.
Russell finished with 13 points. He buried four 3-pointers, including two in the fourth quarter that kept USC with a seemingly comfortable 68-59 lead.
Landon scored six of his eight points in the third quarter, but he fouled out with 6:14 to play.