Butler’s spark prolongs Carroll’s Mastery of states berths

PHILADELPHIA >> In the one-and-done universe of play-in basketball, Paul Romanczuk understood Wednesday that one extra boost might be all it took to salvage a season.

That’s when the Archbishop Carroll basketball coach bent toward his bench and did the usual. That’s when he put his trust in Keyon Butler.

“He’s our energy guy,” Romanczuk said. “And he’s done that for us in a number of games.”

Butler is the Patriots’ junior forward who typically plays bigger than his 6-foot-4 program height. So he did Wednesday, shooting 3-for-4 in the second half to help Carroll hold off Mastery Charter North, 54-38, in a play-in game for the final District 12 spot in the PIAA Class 5A tournament.

Though Carroll was ahead throughout, Mastery North was 23-1, dangerous, and lingering close enough to spread stress. Butler, though, provided comfort, bouncing around inside for tough buckets to give Carroll leads of 31-19, 33-20 and 36-22, helping to quiet the Pumas’ portion of the crowd at Archbishop Ryan.

The victory sent the Patriots into the state tournament for a ninth consecutive season. They will play next Friday, March 10, at a neutral site against the No. 3 seed from District 1. Butler, for one, made sure they will enter on a bounce.

“As recent as the Bonner game last Friday, he had 10 points and six boards off the bench for us,” Romanczuk said. “He picks us up when we need that picking up. And he’s really good in that role.”

Butler had company Wednesday, as the Patriots made few mistakes, shared the ball and supplemented a steady zone defense with shot-blocking instincts to improve to 16-8.

A.J. Hoggard saved 10 of his 17 for the second half, and Justin Anderson mixed two second-half 3-point shots into his 12-point contribution, the Pats steadily pulling away from their 22-14 halftime lead.

Eli Alvin scored 12 points and Rahmir Moore added 11, but the Pumas shot 12-for-63 from the floor as their otherwise satisfying season ended. Such is the reality of the one-and-done portion of the postseason, a time, Romanczuk believes, that can reveal plenty.

“You learn what kind of fight your team has, what kind of toughness,” he said. “Do they want to battle the adversity of Mastery Charter, who had come in having lost only one game the entire year and are on a run, with their fans into it. You have to have some resiliency about you, especially at this time of the year. And I thought we did tonight.”

Not surprisingly, Butler was high among the Patriots embracing that challenge.

“I know that I have to come in and bring energy to the team,” he said. “When we are down, or we are not running good, basically I am the energy boost to give the guys to give us that spark. And it goes a long way. It energizes the whole team.”

Butler, who has not started a game this season, will be happy to continue in his role during the state tournament.

“I am just focused on the team, getting wins,” he said. “That’s all I am thinking about. Because I know, when my time comes, I am going to take advantage of it.”

That, he did Wednesday, against a willing one-loss team in a telling situation.

“It feels great,” he said. “I am just trying to prepare with my teammates, so we can go far into the states. A championship, that’s what we’re thinking about right now.

“Coach told us about that team. But we just knew if we played right, we could beat them. So preparation was the key.”

It was the key early, late … and particularly when the Patriots needed that energy boost, right there in the middle.

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