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Feb. 23—North Allegheny ran undefeated through its boys basketball section twice, but this winter's quirky schedule included a third time through, much to NA's dismay.
Butler became the latest opponent to exact revenge, using a game-high 36 points from star Devin Carney and a head-scratching mistake by the game officials to defeat host North Allegheny, 78-75, Monday night, handing the Tigers their fourth consecutive section loss. NA started its section schedule 8-0 and finished it 0-4.
"This was our third time playing them; we lost the first two times," Carney said. "We definitely had a chip on our shoulder coming in."
Every team in Section 1 now has at least four section losses.
"This section, it's a grind every night," Butler coach Matt Clement said. "Every coach prepares well, runs a lot of stuff and the games come down to the last shot a lot of the time."
The last shot Monday sparked some questions.
Video later showed Butler had six players on the court for North Allegheny's final possession — a technical foul that officials didn't call. Trailing by three with 6 seconds left, the Tigers raced the length of the floor before Greg Habib's 3-pointer bounced off the rim as time expired.
North Allegheny coach Dan DeRose was unaware of the extra defender until he viewed archived video of the school's livestream. A technical foul called there could've changed the game, he said.
"I like to think Matt McDonough is going to go make two," DeRose said. "He's an 82% free throw shooter. And now you've got the ball at half court. You've got plenty of time to get a good shot.
"You have a chance to win the ballgame."
Clement and his team had already left the gym before the mistake became obvious.
It's unclear whether Butler recognized at the time that there was an extra player on the court. Following a timeout, five Butler players walked from the bench toward the left end of the court. A sixth player exited the bench a moment later and headed to his right while an official talked with Clement.
Apparently, none of the officials noticed the violation.
"They should not have been worrying about what Butler was going to be doing coming out of that timeout defensively," DeRose said about the official speaking with Clement. "Just do their job as an official and officiate the game."
Ultimately, on the eve of the WPIAL playoff pairings meeting, North Allegheny (13-6, 8-4) and Butler (10-7, 5-6) appear headed in different directions. Finally healthy, the Golden Tornado had four scorers in double figures, and now have defeated all four section opponents in order following a 1-6 start.
Along with Carney's points, Mattix Clement scored 16, David Leslie had 13 and Raine Gratzmiller had 11.
Gratzmiller and teammate Charlie Kreinbucher returned from injury in recent days and rejoined the starting lineup. Clement said it's no coincidence their return occurred at the same time Butler started winning consistently.
"They're two main starters from last year's WPIAL championship team. Two guys that played a ton of minutes in those games," Clement said. "Maybe now, as they're coming back and getting their legs underneath them, we have other guys that really stepped up. So, it solidified our bench."
Butler finishes its section schedule Tuesday at Seneca Valley.
The Golden Tornado grabbed the lead with a 10-0 run to start the fourth quarter. Carney scored the first seven points with a deep 3-pointer included as Butler took a 75-66 lead with 5 minutes left.
Carney went 11 for 19 shooting from the field and 4 for 9 from 3-point range.
"He didn't force anything tonight," Clement said. "He didn't force the action. That's what's made him a better player. The less he has to force ... the more points he scores."
However, missed free throws let North Allegheny hang around until the end. Butler missed five in the final 26 seconds, the last miss by Carney with 6 seconds left.
"We missed a couple of free throws," Carney said, "but I'm just glad we got the win."
McDonough led North Allegheny with 21 points and six 3-pointers. Jack Christy and Ethan Lake had 12 points each, Habib had 11 and Khalil Dinkins added 10 points and 10 rebounds. Three first-half fouls limited Dinkins' minutes, stressing an NA roster that already was playing short-handed.
North Allegheny erased a seven-point halftime deficit with a barrage of 3-pointers and ended the third leading 66-65. The Tigers went 12 for 23 from beyond the arc led by McDonough (6 for 9) and Christy (4 for 6).
The section loss was the fourth in a row for North Allegheny, which had defeated Butler twice this season, 85-62 and 81-74. The teams in Section 1 agreed to play three times this season since the section has only five teams.
Without question, DeRose wasn't a fan of that arrangement Monday.
"There was more motivation for them to beat you than for you to beat them, because they don't want to get swept," he said. "(They're saying), 'They beat us twice. We've got to go get them.' What's motivation for my guys? We've already beat them twice."
Watch the archived video stream broadcast on the TribLive High School Sports Network.
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .