Staying the course

February 10, 2018 Cranberry Local Sports

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BUTLER TWP — Seneca Valley never trailed.

But the Raiders could feel Butler’s breath down their necks through much of the game.

“We’re a senior-laden team,” SV coach Victor Giannotta said. “These guys know how to keep it together.”

Up by 20 with 5:45 left in the first half, Seneca Valley saw its lead cut to four through a bizarre ending of the first half. The Raiders wound up leaving Butler’s gym with a 78-75 Section 1-6A boys basketball victory Friday night.

“This was a crazy night ... a lot of crazy things happening out there,” Butler coach Matt Clement said. “But it was a great high school basketball game.

“They jumped on us early. They’re a hot team right now.”

The Raiders (14-7, 7-5) took a 26-11 lead after one quarter as Marcus Might banked home a 3-pointer at the buzzer. SV sank 10 of 15 shots in the first quarter, including four treys.

“We played well early,” Giannotta said. “We had a pretty strong half when we played Shaler, too. We have to learn to sustain it.”

Seneca Valley extended its lead to 32-12 with 5:45 left in the half when Josh Rupert stuck back an offensive rebound. Fueled by three consecutive Mattix Clement treys, Butler (17-4, 8-4) stormed back.

A 3-point play by Ethan Morton with 1.8 seconds left in the half trimmed the lead to 44-38. A Golden Tornado foul before the in-bounds pass put SV’s Dalton Peffer on the line.

Peffer sank one of two free throws. Tarik Taoufik rebounded for the Tornado and his desperation shot from three-quarters court sailed through the net.

Seneca Valley’s halftime lead was 45-41 after seven points were scored in the final 1.8 seconds.

“That was a big shot for them,” Raider senior Chris Hart said. “In the locker room, we said Marcus had our buzzer-beating shot to end the first quarter. Now they got theirs. We were even.

“We just had to stay the course.”

They did — barely.

“Tarik’s shot will always be a memorable moment for him,” Clement said. “it would have been better had it come in a win.”

It almost did.

The Raiders had a 69-62 lead with 2:50 to play, but Morton hit two free throws, then two technical free throws to cut the gap to 69-66 with 1:53 left.

Morton fouled out with 54 seconds left and the Raiders ahead 71-68. Two Chris Hart free throws jumped the lead to five.

A free throw by Might gave SV a 77-72 edge with 23 seconds left. Luke Michalek drained a trey for Butler with 16 seconds to play, then got a steal.

Mason Montag’s 3-point shot from the right corner rimmed out, Hart rebounded and was fouled. He sank a free throw with 00.5 of a second left to account for the final margin.

“I don’t know if we’ve lost a game this year with Chris Hart playing,” Giannotta said.

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