Ryan Luther could sense his teammates getting a little tired in the fourth quarter. But he wasn't about to let Hampton's WPIAL playoff run be put to bed.
Luther, a junior guard-forward, seemed to make every big play down the stretch -- offensively and defensively. His teammates might have been gassed, but he breathed life into their championship hopes.
Luther finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds to help Hampton beat North Allegheny, 66-62, in a WPIAL Class AAAA semifinal at Chartiers Valley Wednesday night. The win put the Talbots (21-4) in the title game Saturday at Palumbo Center against New Castle.
Hampton lost to New Castle last season in the Class AAA final.
Luther is considered one of the WPIAL's best players and has scholarship offers from Duquesne and Dayton. He is 6 feet 7 and can play inside or outside. After North Allegheny fought back from a nine-point deficit to take a 54-53 lead, Luther scored eight points in the final three minutes, had a steal, a couple rebounds and a smart defensive play, forcing North Allegheny's James Meeker to attempt a tough shot when the Tigers were only down two points.
"We were a little tired, and I saw [twin brother] Collin on the bench in foul trouble," Ryan Luther said. "Everyone looks to me to make a play, and that's what I'm going to try and do."
Luther's performance came after scoring 31 in the quarterfinals Saturday against McKeesport.
"I think he's tremendous," said North Allegheny coach Dave DeGregorio. "He has some things to work on yet, but, for a high school player to have that size and skill set, it's a pretty tough matchup."
Hampton also got 12 points from sophomore forward David Huber and 11 from sophomore guard Joe Lafko.
North Allegheny led at halftime, 31-27, and a big key to the contest was its shooting in the third quarter. The Tigers offense is designed around the 3-pointer as they average 10 makes and more than 30 attempts a game. North Allegheny (21-4) was 7 of 18 from 3-point range in the first half, but the Tigers were 0 for 9 from there in the third quarter and that allowed Hampton to open a seven-point lead after three quarters.
"It wasn't as much of an X's and O's adjustment in the second half as it was not giving as much help defensively off their shooters," said Hampton coach Joe Lafko. "When you can contest their shots, you can defend them a little better."
North Allegheny was led by Meeker with 19 points, including four 3-pointers, and Adam Haus, who scored 15. Sean Hennigan added 13.
"I thought we got pretty good looks in the third quarter, but we just didn't knock them down," DeGregorio said. "But that's how we play. We know sometimes they're not going to go in, but we weathered the storm and gave ourselves a shot to win in the fourth quarter."
North Allegheny cut the deficit to 59-57 on Haus' 3-pointer with 1:52 left. After a Hampton turnover, Meeker tried to shoot a layup over Luther, who didn't jump but simply stretched his arms into the air. The ball missed the rim, Hampton rebounded, and Luther scored with 48 seconds left.
Hampton then made 5 of 6 free throws in the final 30 seconds to clinch the win. Luther was 6 of 6 from the line in the fourth quarter.
New Castle got 28 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots from senior forward Shawn Anderson and defeated Seneca Valley, 71-46, at Ambridge.
It was the third time this season New Castle beat Seneca Valley.
"Anderson plays his best basketball in the big games," New Castle coach Ralph Blundo.
Anderson, a Naval Academy recruit, scored 17 points in the first half to help the undefeated Red Hurricanes (25-0) grab a 36-25 halftime lead. Seneca Valley (17-8) cut the deficit to 46-35 in the third quarter, but a 12-0 run by New Castle put the game away.
Gaylord Muny of Tri-State Sports & News Service contributed to this report. For more on high school sports, go to Varsity Blog at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh. First Published February 28, 2013 5:00 AM