March 12, 1997 - PIAA Western Quarterfinal - Butler vs. New Castle - at Westminster College
New Castle, led by Coach John Sarandrea, had beaten Butler twice during the regular season, had won the section, and was the WPIAL champion. They were 26-3 and riding a 14-game winning streak. Their roster included the WPIAL player of the year, 6-8 center Justin Ferris, as well as David Young, a sophomore who was later drafted by the Seattle Supersonics, and three other college athletes. Butler, 21-7, and coached by PA Basketball Hall of Fame member George Abraham, was certainly outsized, as its center was 5-11 Mike Grabowski. Butler's leading scorer for the season was Bryant Lewandowski, a forward who averaged 17 points per game. The other starters were juniors Aaron Epps, Ralph Deabrunzzo, and Troy Nunes, who later played quarterback at Syracuse University. New Castle was a heavy favorite because of their two earlier wins against Butler, their winning streak, and the crowd at Westminster College, which was 80% 'Canes fans. Despite outshooting and outrebounding Butler for the game, New Castle struggled against a tough Butler press in the second half. Their 28-19 halftime lead was erased by a 13-2 Butler run to start the third quarter. With under a minute to play and the game tied at 48, a steal and a Nunes lay-up gave Butler a two point lead. Another steal and an Epps free throw made the score 51-48, and Young's three point attempt to tie at the buzzer fell off the rim, giving Butler the upset win. Deabrunzzo led Butler in scoring with 17, including five fourth quarter free throws. Butler went on to defeat Uniontown in the PIAA Western Semifinals, but lost to Franklin Regional in double overtime at Duquesne University in the Western Finals.
(Credit: submitted by Jon McKay, who actually played for Butler in this game)