Hampton's Ryan Luther dunks against New Castle in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship last Saturday.
By Ryan Riordan Tri-State Sports & News Service
Hampton ran into a buzzsaw Saturday night and has a week to recover before starting its biggest tournament of the season.
New Castle set a WPIAL Class AAAA championship game record with 12 3-pointers in blowing out the Talbots, 68-53, at Palumbo Center.
"We were talking about it after the game and we know we can play with them, but not when they're hitting shots like that," Talbots junior Ryan Luther said. "They played phenomenal."
Now Hampton (21-5) must get that game out of its mind as it prepares to play Perry (12-13) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Allderdice in a PIAA Class AAAA first-round playoff game.
The Talbots have experience bouncing back from defeat in the WPIAL title game. It was just last season that the Talbots fell to New Castle in the WPIAL Class AAA title game. Hampton then went on to advance to the PIAA semifinals, where it lost to Montour.
"We take it from this standpoint -- [states] is a totally new tournament," Hampton coach Joe Lafko said. "This upcoming tournament, in our view, is the bigger goal. We're representing our area against the best teams from around the state."
Many of the core players on this season's team, including junior twins Ryan and Collin Luther and sophomore guard David Huber, were key contributors on the 2011-12 team.
So while Hampton doesn't rely on many seniors, it does have experience in big games and experience bouncing back from a WPIAL championship loss.
"The bulk of our lineup are juniors and sophomores, but they all got valuable experience over the past two seasons," Lafko said. "This group has played in 12 postseason games over the past two years -- four WPIAL games last year, four state tournament games last year and four more WPIAL games this season. That playoff experience provides them with an understanding of what it takes to win in those situations."
Lafko said he gave the team Monday off and had a light shootaround planned for Tuesday as the coaches prepared the game plan for Perry.
The Commodores finished fourth in the City League in the regular season, but then upset No. 1 Obama Academy in the league semifinals before losing to Westinghouse in the district title game.
Perry faced four teams from Hampton's section this season -- New Castle, Butler, Shaler and Seneca Valley. Perry went 1-3 against the quartet, the lone win a 51-49 victory against Butler.
Hampton, meanwhile, went 5-4 against those same four teams.
A win against the Commodores and the Talbots would play either Seneca Valley, who they split with this season, or Erie Cathedral Prep, the District 10 winner and a top-10 team in Class AAAA.
After that, a rematch against New Castle is possible.
But Hampton isn't going to look that far ahead.
"We always just take it one game at a time," Ryan Luther said. "If we do that and win, and [New Castle] is there, we'll get to look forward to that opportunity then."