Tigers Edged By Butler, 55-51

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In a contest between two teams jousting for playoff positioning, the Butler Golden Tornado raised its post-season stock with a 55-51 road win over North Allegheny on Tuesday night. The win pulls Butler into fourth place in Section 3-AAAA and drops NA to fifth place in the section. The Tigers sit one-half game out of the last playoff spot with three section games remaining.

North Allegheny looked as if it might run Butler right out of the gym in the first quarter, leaping out to leads of 8-0 and 13-2. Senior Keegan Phillips used his patented southpaw runner through the lane to great success and netted eight first quarter points on his way to a 12 point night. For his efforts in leading the Tigers early on, Phillips was named the Wright Automotive Player of the Game.

The North Allegheny defense was also pivotal in rattling Butler into six turnovers in the first quarter that led to fast-break points and a 19-9 advantage through one period. Butler finally found its composure against the NA pressure in the second quarter and began to chip away at the lead.

By the third quarter, the Golden Tornado trimmed the score to 34-33 before the Tigers used another lengthy run to return the lead to double figures. NA capitalized on a 12-2 run for a 46-35 lead with 2:05 remaining in the third quarter. Sophomore Curtis Aiken spearheaded the charge with a pair of 3-pointers and netted a team-high 17 points.

Undaunted, Butler brushed off the adversity and continued to whittle the Tigers lead down in the fourth quarter and eventually tied the game, 48-48, on a Jace Stutz layup with 4:51 left to play. The score stayed tied until a Kelley Kuharic 3-pointer from long range gave Butler a 51-48 advantage with 2:28 to go.

After one free throw for each team made the score to 52-49, Butler, NA junior Griffin Sestili’s layup with 1:13 remaining brought the Tigers to within one at 52-51. However, Butler finished off NA at the free-throw line and ultimately claimed a 55-51 victory. Butler sophomore Connor Ollio led the team in scoring with a 16 point effort. Tyler Frederick added 13 points and Kuharic chipped in with 10, including three 3-pointers. The Golden Tornado outscored the Tigers, 16-3, in the fourth quarter.

The win for Butler snapped a seven-game head-to-head losing streak to North Allegheny. The last time the Golden Tornado had defeated the Tigers prior to last night was in a WPIAL quarterfinal game on February 25, 2012, by a 63-61 decision in overtime.

North Allegheny slips to 9-7 overall and 5-4 in Section 3-AAAA. Butler improves to 13-5 overall and 6-4 in the section. The Tigers look to bounce back on Friday night with a visit to Central Catholic in Oakland. The game will be broadcast by MSA Sports as the Quad-A Conference Basketball Game of the Week.

Boys Basketball vs. Butler, 1-26-16

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