Westmoreland athletes of the week: Latrobe’s Bryce Butler, Penn-Trafford’s Bella Long
Claim to fame: Butler, a West Liberty (W.Va.) commit, scored 32 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead Latrobe (18-2, 10-0) to a 75-50 win over Hempfield in Section 3-6A action Feb. 8. Earlier in the week, Butler, who is averaging 22.4 points and 9 rebounds, scored 27 points in a 59-57 win over Norwin on Feb. 4 and 25 points in a 74-62 win over Kiski School on Feb. 5.
“Playing alongside Reed Fenton definitely helps since the opposing team can’t focus on one player. The young guys are stepping up and scoring a lot for us. My game has progressed from the beginning of the season, and we’ve gotten a lot better from where we started,” Butler said.
What made you commit to West Liberty (W.Va.)?
West Liberty is the perfect fit, and they play the same style we play at Latrobe. I liked the winning culture, and the coaching staff and players are amazing.
What did the team learn in losses to Allderdice and St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes, Va.?
The first loss to Allderdice was a wake-up call early in the season. It’s a tough place to play. It told us that we had a lot of work to do to get better. The loss in the Christmas tournament was against one of the best basketball teams we’ve ever played at Latrobe. I don’t think my AAU team could’ve beat them
What does it mean to go undefeated in section play?
That’s step No. 1 in where we want to go. We almost had a couple slipups but we refocused. We understand that not everything is going to be given to us. It’s the first time in Latrobe basketball history, so it’s very special.
What is the team’s mindset heading into the WPIAL playoffs?
We got to beat everyone. We need to focus on the first game and outplay everybody no matter who we are playing.
If you didn’t play basketball, what sport would you prefer to play?
Football. I played it eighth and ninth grade until I tore my ACL in ninth. It was my favorite sport for a while.
Claim to fame: Long, who is averaging 15 points, scored 23 to lead Penn-Trafford (13-9, 9-5) to a 84-39 win over Laurel Highlands in Section 3-5A action Feb. 4. Long scored 18 points, including four 3-pointers, in a 62-32 win over Latrobe in section action Feb. 8.
“This week was like the playoffs for us because we had to win out to make the playoffs. It was a really big task for all of us. We finished the season pretty strong,” Long said.
What was the key to the team’s three-game winning streak to end the season?
We knew we had to win to get in. We locked in and worked hard at practice knowing we needed to win each game.
What was it like to battle through illness during an important week for the team?
I didn’t want to let my team down. I knew I needed to come out and play my hardest. It wasn’t going to be an excuse.
What does it mean to you to return to the WPIAL playoffs?
We were really upset that we didn’t make it last year. We wanted to do it for our seniors, and we didn’t want it to end. We wanted to keep going.
What is the team’s mindset heading into the playoffs?
We are all really excited to see who we play and where we are seeded. We are going to work our hardest to see how far we can make it in the playoffs.
Who is your favorite athlete?
Steph Curry. It’s fun to watch him play, shoot and handle the ball. He’s a fun guard to watch play.
— Andrew John
Andrew John is a freelance writer.