Butler turns back Peters Township in tip-off tournament
No. 1 Golden Tornadoes begin season with win
When the season ends there is a chance that Butler may look back on opening night as the reason why they were able to win their first WPIAL Class 6A championship and first title of any kind since taking the Class 4A title home in 1991.
Nothing motivates a program like nearly getting upset by an unranked team in its season opener.
Top Division I prospect Ethan Morton scored a game-high 34 points, including a key pair of free throws in the final 30 seconds, as Class 6A No. 1 Butler escaped with a 70-68 win against host Peters Township in the Indians tip-off tournament. Peters Township had an opportunity to tie the game in the finals seconds but the Golden Tornadoes forced a turnover on the Indians’ final possession.
Butler led, 34-32, at the intermission, but Peters Township was able to stay in it thanks in large part to Dax Ploskina, who scored 12 of his team-high 31 in the first half. Devin Carney scored 15 for the Golden Tornadoes, who did not trail in the fourth quarter.
Other top games
Dave DeGregorio didn’t waste any time putting his stamp on the North Catholic program and he had his son to help. Junior guard Isaac DeGregorio, a Hampton transfer, scored 18 points to lead four Trojans players in double-figures, while senior Nick Koscinski chipped in 14 as Class 3A No. 3 North Catholic sneaked past twotime defending WPIAL Class 2A champion Sewickley Academy, 70-65, at the opening game of the Baldwin/Peters Township TipOff Tournament. Senior forward Nate Ridgeway helped the Panthers stay in it with a game-high 33 points and helped Sewickley Academy, the No. 2 team in Class 2A, mount a furious fourth-quarter comeback.
Lehigh recruit Reed Fenton did most of his damage in the first half as the Latrobe senior scored 33 of his 42 points before the intermission and finished with 10 3-pointers to lead the Class 6A No. 2 Wildcats to an impressive, 90-70, victory against an Altoona squad that could contend for the District 6 title. Fenton had to be on his game as the Mountain Lions got 32 from T.J. Charles.
Bethel Park is supposed to make a run at the Class 6A title this season, but the No. 5 team in the classification had a tough time with an unranked Class 3A Steel Valley squad before a 30-13 spurt in the third quarter helped the Black Hawks to an 85-72 win. The two teams combined for 25 3-pointers as Alex Mullen hit six for 18 of his game-high 30 points to lead Bethel Park. Camden Polak dropped in five from behind the arc for 15 of his 29 in the loss for Steel Valley.
Even without transfer Donovan Johnson, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart has a formidable team and the Chargers showed much of their might as Daren DiMichele scored 19 points and Dante Spadafora 16 to lead four players in double-figures as Class 2A No. 1 OLSH had its way with Class 4A Blackhawk, 70-60, at the Armstrong Tip-Off Tournament.
Clairton transfer Khori Fusco is already paying dividends -— and setting benchmarks — for his new team as the senior guard popped in 18 points, including the 1,000th of his career, while Andrew Recchia led the Fighting Planets with 19 as Class 5A No. 1 and defending WPIAL champion Mars got the clock running in its 73-30 win against Burrell.
Even without senior forward Justin Moon, Serra Catholic can still find ways to win. Moon, who averaged 16.1 points and 13.3 rebounds a game last season and was injured in warmups, sat this one out. But the Eagles found another player who can put up a double-double as Bernard Lawson dropped 17 points and pulled down 12 boards and Khalil Smith chipped in 17 as Class 2A No. 4 Serra Catholic blew out East Allegheny, 63-38.
There weren’t many upsets on opening night, but Waynesburg pulled off the biggest one as Lucas Garber scored a game-high 29 and the Raiders stalled a fourth-quarter Burgettstown comeback as they pulled out a 54-52 win against the No. 5 team in Class 2A. Bobby Kozares scored 15 to lead three Blue Devils in double figures.
Senior forward Justin Novak did everything he could to keep Frazier in the game as he dropped in a game-high 33 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough for the Commodores as junior Connor Mislan scored 30 points and Joe Alcorn 10 to lead South Fayette to a 74-64 win in the South Park Tip-Off Tournament.
Ringgold had an opportunity to kickstart its season in the right direction after a dismal 3-19 2017-18 campaign, but despite 17 points from Chris Piccon and 14 from Jaden Taylor, the Rams missed a shot at the buzzer and fell, 49-48, to Norwin. Ty Bilincky led the Knights with 18.
Belle Vernon did quite a bit of damage to itself as the team shot just 10 of 22 from the line against Class 5A No. 5 Franklin Regional while the Panthers Nick Leopold went for a game-high 16 in the Class 4A No. 5 Leopards 68-41 loss at the Hempfield Tournament.
Star of the night
Cornell guard Kaden DiVitto opened with a 22-point first quarter en route to a game-high 46 to lead the Raiders to a 75-58 win against Deer Lakest.
Johnny Crise of Highlands dunks against the Pine-Richland Rams in the season opener Friday at Pine-Richland High School.