Leaders don’t just lead when it’s convenient.
Cardinal O’Hara coach Jason Harrigan had challenged senior point guard Antwuan Butler, who played at now-closed Del-Val last season, to lead the inexperienced Lions in the Catholic League this season.
Friday night at Archbishop Ryan, Butler, the king of the pride, scored all 24 of his points in the second half (15 in the fourth) of the Lions’ 58-47 first-round win against the Raiders. He also finished 14 of 16 at the foul line.
It was O’Hara’s first playoff win since the 2011-12 season, when they beat Conwell-Egan.
The win means a rematch with regular season champ Bonner-Prendergast, which the Lions tested before falling, 67-63, at home on Sunday.
“It’s a great win for the program, the school itself,” said Butler, who will play at Austin Peay next season. “Now they can get more kids from outside the area. Good kids, top-ranked kids who will want to play here if they know we’re winning now.”
Despite not scoring in the first half, Butler had controlled the pace and gotten teammates involved before picking up his third foul with about 3 minutes left in the half.
Sophomore guard Elijah Smith had kept O’Hara afloat in an ugly first half that saw little offense by either team and 15 combined turnovers (O’Hara 8, Ryan 7).
Smith scored 11 of his 17 points at the break, which yielded a 24-18 edge to the Lions. Senior wing Garrett Ripp also added two 3-pointers in the first half.
Ryan was led by Ja’Quill Stone’s 10 points, while Kevin Lezin added 9 more along with 8 rebounds. Senior guard Amin Bryant added 8 points, 6 rebounds and frisky defense before fouling out with 2 minutes, 11 seconds left.
In the third, Butler took over, consistently penetrating the Raiders defense while defenders reached, and finishing around the basket with floaters, layups and short jumpers. He had 9 points in the frame and 15 of O’Hara’s 19 in the fourth.
He also controlled the tempo exceptionally well.
O’Hara plays with a deliberate pace that makes each possession important. The Lions finished 16 of 32 from the field while Ryan finished 19 of 58.
“I could have chosen other schools with other top players, but I felt as though I didn’t want to team up with somebody,” Butler said. “Ever since I’ve been playing basketball, I never wanted to ‘team up’ with another good player. I always wanted to go against the best.”
As a sophomore at Del-Val, Butler earned a reputation as a big-shot taker and maker and helped the Warriors win the Public League championship under Harrigan, now in his second season at O’Hara.
“I’m really just happy for the kids,” Harrigan said. “They’ve been working and I feel like throughout the year we played tough against some big-time teams…but when you don’t win you don’t really feel that gratification.”
Cardinal O’Hara 18 6 15 19 58
Archbishop Ryan 8 10 16 13 47
CO: Antwuan Butler 24, Elijah Smith 17, Garrett Ripp 8, Jordan Hall 3, Kevin Reeves 3, Kyle Maska 2, Taseer Jones 1.
AR: Ja’Quill Stone 10, Kevin Lezin 9, Amin Bryant 8, Devon Vargas 7, Colin Reed 5, Anthony Woodard 4, Taleeq Robbins 2, Brendan Scanlon.