In a one-game span, Hampton went from playing in a WPIAL championship in front of a sellout crowd of more than 4,000 fans, to a PIAA first-round game in a half-empty gym.
Thus, Hampton coach Joe Lafko half expected a letdown from his team. But his Talbots were still able to turn it up a notch when they felt threatened.
Hampton survived a ragged performance and a Perry comeback to defeat the Commodores, 50-41, in a PIAA Class AAAA first-round game Saturday at Allderdice.
Perry (12-14), the City League runner-up, came back from a 12-point halftime deficit and cut the deficit to one early in the fourth quarter against a Hampton team that lost in the WPIAL title game a week ago.
"This is a tough game to get them up for," said Lafko, whose team has lost in a WPIAL championship four times in the past eight years. "I think both tournaments [WPIAL and PIAA] are about survive and advance. We've been fortunate enough to play in the [PIAA semifinals] three of the past four years. There are going to be games like this where you just don't play your best, but you do win."
Hampton (21-6) led at halftime, 32-20, but Perry switched to a 2-3 zone defense in the third quarter, and the Commodores started playing like they were in a different time zone. The Talbots had nine turnovers in the third quarter. Shakeem Cox scored the first basket of the fourth quarter to bring Perry within 36-35. At that point, Hampton had taken nine second-half shots, all 3-pointers.
"Whenever a team plays a zone, they give you some perimeter opportunities," Lafko said. "I was just a little disappointed with the turnovers because I don't think we were attacking the zone aggressively enough."
Perry failed to go ahead on two possessions before Hampton's Collin Luther hit a 3-pointer with 5:43 left. His twin brother, Ryan, scored off a rebound with 3:53 left, and Perry couldn't recover. After cutting the lead to one, Perry had four missed shots and two turnovers over their next six possessions.
"We've been working the last two weeks on being more disciplined and more under control," said Perry coach Marco Corona. "When we got it to one, we told them to keep working the offense and take your time. But it's hard for them. They have a lot of energy.
"But I told our guys I respected their effort. I think we showed we can compete with some of these [Class AAAA] teams. We just have to be a little more disciplined."
Collin Luther finished with 19 points and Ryan Luther added 15. Daron Clark, a senior forward, had 19 for Perry, which shot 34 percent (18 of 53) from the field but was 0 for 12 from 3-point range.
"It was a lot closer than we would like," Lafko said. "But I thought Collin Luther really stepped up and made some plays for us down the stretch."
For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1975. Twitter @mwhiteburgh. First Published March 10, 2013 5:00 AM