HS Boys Basketball: Hampton rallies past NA, 61-53

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Since the Luther twins, Ryan and Collin, put on varsity uniforms at Hampton High School three years ago, the Talbots had won 83 games, many by blowouts.

Wednesday night, Hampton found itself in an unusual position -- behind in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. But Hampton and the Luthers proved they can win when they aren't a frontrunner.

North Allegheny took a swing at Hampton in the fourth quarter, but Hampton staggered back and answered, pulling out a 61-53 victory in a Class AAAA semifinal at Chartiers Valley.

The win puts Hampton (22-3) into the title game Saturday night against New Castle. It will be the third year in a row the two will meet in a title game, and game time is 7 p.m. at Palumbo Center.

For a brief period in the fourth quarter, it looked like North Allegheny might be New Castle's opponent. Sluggish offensively much of the game and unable to make many 3-pointers, North Allegheny (21-4) hung in and went on a 9-0 run the end of the third quarter to tie the game, 42-42.

Then, Hampton got a little out of sorts to start the fourth quarter, turning the ball over on three of its first four possessions. Two baskets by North Allegheny's Cole Costantino and Elijah Zeise, and suddenly Hampton trailed for the first time since early in the first quarter.

But the Luthers scored 11 points in the final five minutes to help bring the Talbots back. Ryan Luther, a 6-foot-8 guard/forward and Pitt recruit, finished with 25 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Collin Luther, a 6-7 guard-forward, had 13 points and made 7 of 7 free throws in the fourth quarter. Hampton also got a nice boost from junior forward David Huber, who scored 15.

"We had to battle back from North Allegheny's momentum," said Hampton coach Joe Lafko. "I haven't had a chance to go to the locker room and tell them yet, but I'm so proud of the way our guys battled back."

After North Allegheny took the four-point lead, Hampton executed well on its next seven possessions, scoring one free throw, one three-point play by Collin Luther and five baskets.

Meanwhile, after grabbing the lead, North Allegheny had one turnover, one basket and four missed shots on its next five possessions.

"We played North Allegheny six times in the last two years and we knew what they were going to give us," said Ryan Luther. "We knew they would eventually make a run. I think their pressure sped us up a little bit at the start of the fourth quarter. But I felt like once we composed ourselves, we were all right."

Senior guard David Haus helped fuel the second-half comeback for North Allegheny, scoring 12 of his 14 points. Senior guard Mike Carter added 12.

North Allegheny, a team that relies heavily on 3-point shooting, shot only 29 percent (5 of 17) from 3-point range.

Other semifinal

n New Castle 77, Kiski Area 23: Thud! That was Kiski Area's dream playoff run coming to a crashing halt in the Class AAAA semifinals at North Allegheny.

Powerful New Castle (25-0) leveled Kiski Area (17-6), which was the No. 13 seed for the playoffs. Kiski Area was trying to make it to the title game for the second time in school history. Now, New Castle gets a chance to win an unprecedented third consecutive title with an undefeated record.

The 26 points were the second-lowest total in a Class AAAA playoff game in the past 26 years. The lowest since then was 20 by Highlands in a 25-20 loss to Latrobe in 1988. That game was a slowdown.

This game was just a case of Kiski Area not being able to handle New Castle's pressure defense as Kiski Area committed 30 turnovers. New Castle had 17 steals. Kiski Area managed only nine field goals.

New Castle led, 17-9, after the first quarter and extended the advantage to 36-12 at halftime. Kiski Area had 20 turnovers in the first half.

For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.

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