With star Ryan Luther out of the lineup with a sprained ankle, Hampton coach Joe Lafko knew nobody could duplicate what this future Pitt basketball player brings to his team.
So, Lafko did the next best thing.
He put the ball in the hands of Luther's twin brother.
Collin Luther made a driving layup with 53 seconds left in overtime to provide the winning points in Hampton's thrilling, 62-61 win Wednesday night against visiting North Allegheny in a battle of Class AAAA heavyweights.
It was second consecutive season the teams played each other in early January and started the night with unblemished records. This time, No. 2 Hampton improved to 12-0 (5-0 in Section 3), while No. 3 North Allegheny dropped to 10-1, 4-1.
Ryan Luther, a 6-foot-8 guard-forward who averages 23 points per game, injured his ankle Tuesday in practice. Lafko said it's not serious, but expects Luther to miss a game Friday against Seneca Valley, too. Lafko added that he is "hopeful" Luther will be back in time for a Tuesday night showdown against undefeated New Castle (10-0, 5-0).
With his brother out, Collin Luther -- who also has several Division I offers -- scored only six points, but the final two were among the biggest of his career.
Said Luther: "It was a pick-and-roll play where I would be able to come off it and find a shooter or go to the hoop. I refused a screen and tried to make something happen. Luckily, it went in."
North Allegheny's Cole Constantino had two shots rim out in the final 20 seconds. The second came on a coast-to-coast layup attempt after Hampton's David Huber missed the front end of a one-and-one with 4.7 seconds left.
"You just have to move on to the next one, and that's what we told the kids," North Allegheny coach Dave DeGregorio said.
Huber and Joey Lafko each scored 14 points for Hampton.
Joe Lafko said he was proud of his team. Playing without it star against an excellent team, Hampton passed its first test after winning all previous games by at least 21 points.
"There's no doubt about it, Ryan Luther, as an ACC player, is our go-to guy, but him not being on the court, someone has to assume that role," Lafko said. "We had some guys step up that made some big plays tonight."
A sold-out gym created a playoff-like atmosphere, and the teams didn't disappoint. There were six ties and 13 lead changes, and the biggest advantage was six points.
Hampton led, 28-24, at halftime, but North Allegheny used a strong third quarter, particularly on defense, to take a 43-41 lead. With the score tied, 57-57, Hampton's Hayden Seserko saw a potential winning shot bounce out just before the buzzer.
Constantino led North Allegheny with 21 points.
The teams play again Jan. 31 at North Allegheny.