Keyon Butler (above) led Carroll down the stretch in a win against La Salle. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Ari Glazier (@AriGlazier)
Archbishop Carroll senior Keyon Butler describes himself as a “second half guy”.
“When the game needs that energy that’s the boost I’m gonna give our team to get over the hump,” Butler said. “I know sometimes we might lack a little energy, confidence, that’s what I’m here for."
The 6-foot-4 forward’s late game boost was a saving grace for the Patriots on Friday night when they were locked in a tie game with La Salle on the road with 55 seconds to play. Butler went to the line shooting one-and-one. He sunk both.
Twenty-five seconds later. Butler drove to the lane, pump faked and shot, drawing a healthy amount of contact. After a brief discussion, the referees ruled a goal tend and a foul. Butler completed the three-point play at the line, putting Carroll up by five.
The Patriots held on to the lead and beat La Salle, 57-54. Butler scored seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter to go along with four rebounds, an assist and a steal.
“That was a crazy ending. In the Catholic League, a lot of games are gonna come down to the wire,” Carroll head coach Paul Romanczuk said. “I’ll go to war with (Butler) every single game. I mean he’s undersized in there and battles with guys that are 6-8, 6-9, 6-10, and gives us everything he has, and then stepped up and hit three really big free throws for us.”
While the game may have came down to the wire, it looked like Carroll was in firm control for a large portion of the contest.
The Patriots held the lead from the opening minutes of the first quarter.
The Explorers opened the second quarter with consecutive threes from Allen Powell and Zach Crisler that locked the game at 19-19. Carroll responded with a 9-0 run to end the half up 28-19. Seven of the points on the run came from point guard AJ Hoggard, who led all scorers with 20.
“He had it going on drives, he got out in transition in the first half a little bit, he was knocking down threes, he was getting into the mid-range. He did a little bit of everything for us, and he had no turnovers,” Romanczuk said of Hoggard. “ When we needed a bucket and our offense was stagnant, he got us that bucket.”
Carroll fended off another 6-0 run to begin the third quarter and led 38-35 going into the fourth, but Romanczuk’s team had one more run to contend with.
Back-to-back threes from Powell and Sean Simon put the Explorers up by four early in the second. It was back-and-forth for the rest of the period up until Butler’s late game heroics sealed the deal.
“We knew that they were gonna have runs. It was just all about how resilient we were and how we bounce back,” Butler said. “They knocked down big shots, contested shots, attacked the paint, got and-ones. It’s just a mental stage, that’s all it really was with us, just locking in mentally and not letting that affect the game and kind of tear us apart, so we stayed together as a team and fought it out.”
“The guys are probably sick of me using the word resilient,” Romanczuk said. “It’s something I thought we really were tonight, and hopefully going forward that’s the word we get to use after every game.”
The win Friday night was Carroll’s first in the Catholic League after a 75-58 loss to Neumann Goretti on Jan. 2 and a weather postponement for their scheduled matchup against Archbishop Wood.
“We had ten days in between games, I was really worried about that,” Romanczuk said. “Usually when you lose a game, you want to get right back at it. …Thankfully the guys were locked in, I felt we were just a little sluggish early on, but as a whole as the game went on I felt we picked up the energy and thought we did a good job defensively, and got stops when we needed at the end there.”
Defensive ferocity was a major point of emphasis for Romanczuk against a sharp shooting Explorers team. The Patriots responded in kind, holding La Salle to 19 in the first half, before the floodgates opened in the second.
Romanczuk said that although shots were falling for the opposing team, he was pleased with the defensive performance throughout the game.
“It was just all communication really, I think that was the biggest part of our defense today,” Butler said. “Switching out hard, playing aggressive defense, making them put the ball on the floor, just trying to make plays off the dribble instead of just catching and shooting where they’re comfortable at.”
The Explorers, who fell to 2-1 in the PCL, were led by Crisler with 19 points and seven rebounds. Powell and Matt McMahon both chipped in 9 points.
Both teams will continue making the Catholic League rounds, with La Salle visiting Cardinal O’Hara on Monday before hosting Archbishop Wood on Friday and Neumann Goretti on Jan. 22. Carroll has a stretch of road games against Bishop McDevitt on Sunday, O’Hara on Tuesday, and West Catholic on Friday.