North Xtra: Hampton flexes muscles on defense

Brad Everett's high school basketball notebook

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With Pitt-bound standout Ryan Luther and several other players who can fill the basket regularly, Hampton is a team known for its offense.

But in their playoff opener last Saturday, the Talbots put together a defensive performance the likes of which had not been seen in 26 years.

Hampton handily defeated Peters Township, 61-26, in a WPIAL Class AAAA first-round game at Fox Chapel. If the 26 points sound extremely low, that's because it is. It was the fewest points scored by a Class AAAA team in a WPIAL playoff game since 1988. In that contest, Highlands used a "slow-down" approach, but ultimately lost to Greater Latrobe, 25-20.

Hampton coach Joe Lafko would not go as far as calling it his team's best defensive effort of the season, but said he was certainly pleased with the performance.

"I thought we did a good job from the start," Lafko said. "We went out and pressured the basketball. I thought we rebounded well. We were limiting them to one shot and boxed out. We certainly played with a lot of intensity. The effort was something we are capable of doing."

The Talbots are allowing 50 points per game. They had held two opponents to 38 points, which previously was their season low. It was a big turnaround after allowing an average of 66 points in their previous three games, two of which were losses. The 26 points were the fewest Peters Township had amassed since 2008.

Hampton played man-to-man in the first half and switched up to a 3-2 zone in the second half. Both were effective. Peters Township didn't score more than eight points in any quarter.

"It was just five guys working together," Lafko said of his team's stellar effort.

Hampton (20-3), the No. 2 seed, turned the page and quickly began preparing for quarterfinal foe and No. 7 seed Franklin Regional (16-6). The two will square off Saturday at a site and time to be determined. Franklin Regional edged Seneca Valley, 70-59, in the first round. The Panthers have won seven games in a row.

"I know they're a big team," Lafko said of Franklin Regional. "They have some good size. They're senior oriented. They've got good guards with [Matt] Renzi and [Charan] Singh. We know from here on out there will be no easy games. It's going to be a tough challenge for us."

St. Joe's with a big one

Two of the hottest girls teams in Class A will tangle in the WPIAL quarterfinals for the second year in a row.

No. 4 seed St. Joseph (19-4), which has won 11 consecutive games, will face No. 5 Quigley Catholic (17-5), which has won eight in a row, Saturday at a site and time to be determined.

St. Joseph is a sleeper in the race for the WPIAL title. Its only losses have been to No. 1 Vincentian (twice), No. 3 Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (by two points) and Class AAAA McKeesport. St. Joseph avenged its loss to North Catholic by earning an 80-66 triumph.

St. Joseph's Mallory Heinle, a senior guard, is one of the top players in Class A. Heinle scored 23 points a 61-14 win against Jefferson-Morgan Saturday. Quigley, led by senior guard Kristin Jackson, also had a tremendous first-round defensive performance, stifling West Greene in a 58-17 victory.

This is a rematch of last season's quarterfinal, won by Quigley, 60-31. Quigley scored the first 13 points of the game and handed St. Joseph its third quarterfinal loss in as many seasons. Jackson scored a game-high 24 points and Heinle had a team-high 14 points.

Scoring champions

Vincentian's Ryan Wolf and St. Joseph's Mallory Heinle led all North Xtra area players in scoring during the regular season.

Wolf, a junior guard, averaged 25.3 points per game, which ranked fifth among all WPIAL and City League players. Heinle averaged 23.7 points, ranking her second behind Central Valley's Seairra Barrett (24.3).

Wolf scored his 1,000th career point in December and has led the defending WPIAL Class A champions to the quarterfinals. No. 2 Vincentian (21-2) will play No. 10 Clairton (10-6) 6:15 p.m. Friday at West Allegheny. It's a rematch of last season's title game, won by Vincentian, 86-74.

Fox Chapel's Matt D'Amico (10th at 22.9) and Hampton's Ryan Luther (12th at 22.1) also finished in the top 12 of all boys scorers.

Heinle scored the 1,000th point of her career in December, as well. She averaged 19.5 points per game her junior season.

There was only one other North Xtra area girls player to finish among the area's top 20 scorers. Aquinas Academy's Molly Robinson averaged 20.8 points to rank 11th.

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