Behind the best scoring defense in WPIAL Class AAA, the Hampton girls basketball team has climbed through the top of Section 1 past the halfway point of the section season.
Hampton is 12-4 overall and 7-0 in section play mostly because it is allowing 28.3 points per game. That defense gets even stingier against section opponents where the Talbots are only allowing a remarkable 16.7 points per game.
Hampton's zone defense has been nearly impenetrable in some games. It held New Castle to 21 points, Mount Pleasant to 20, Freeport to 18, Knoch to 10 and most recently it held Highlands to seven on Monday night. The Talbots have held opponents scoreless for entire quarters. New Castle did not score its first basket until the second quarter.
And the defense has come up big when it mattered the most. Against Mars, the team Hampton split the section title with last season, the Talbots defense dominated in a 46-24 win.
"It is really a matter of the kids buying into and feeling comfortable in the defense," Hampton coach Mary Bukovac said. "We have changed a few things, the kids understand the rotation, they really understand it."
Hampton plays primarily zone defense but Bukovac is not afraid to press or move into man-to-man.
"The half-court zone seems to be the most effective," Bukovac said. "Although we have come out and won some games playing man-to-man, that is nice to see. In the past man-to-man is not something we could have done. Our team quickness is better, that has improved and it has given us some different options."
Senior forward Sara Pilarski continues to have a fantastic season. She is averaging 16.4 points per game, 12.5 rebounds per game and 5.6 blocks per game to lead the team. This month she scored 12 against New Castle, 15 against Kittanning and 24 against Pine-Richland. In a game against Freeport she had recorded her first career triple-double, with 20 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocks. She also outscored Freeport in the 63-18 win.
"Sara continues to be a steady force inside for us," Bukovac said.
Pilarski has been filling up the stat sheet but there are a number of players stepping up for the Talbots, including key freshman reserve players off the bench.
Freshman guard Lexi Griggs starts, she scored 18 last week against Kittanning, to lead all scorers. She is second on the team averaging 7.7 points per game. In a game when Hampton was struggling to score, Griggs caught fire in the third quarter scoring 12 points.
Junior guard Caitlin Jameson is the top 3-point shooter on the team, shooting about 21 percent from behind the 3-point line. Senior point guard Brianna Intrieri leads the team in assists.
Freshman guard Jada Alim has come on strong as of late and is improving Hampton with solid guard minutes off the bench. Junior guard Jordan Busshaus is third on the team averaging 4.6 points per game
"Younger kids are stepping up and making an impact," Bukovac said. "Jada has given us good minutes off the bench, Brianna continues to run the point and control the tempo, Caitlin Jameson is shooting the 3-pointer well and we continue to just be a team. The kids are playing well together and having fun."
Bukovac has consistently been going nine deep with her bench and has used as many as 11 players in games in meaningful minutes.
"It is not like sometimes in the past where you are just trying to get kids minutes," Bukovac said. "This year it really is, anyone who comes off the bench, has the ability to contribute."
First Published January 24, 2013 5:00 AM