North Xtra: Luthers key Hampton's basketball revival
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The top brother tandem in the WPIAL is playing their best ball of the season, and that could spell trouble for their team's future opponents.
Hampton's Luther brothers -- Ryan and Collin -- are two of the best juniors in the area, but only Ryan has been playing at 100 percent for most of the season. That's because Collin has spent the past few months working his way back from a concussion he sustained during a football game on Oct. 26.
Collin sat out the first three games of the basketball season and it took him a considerable amount of time to return to form.
Collin, though, is just about back to full strength, according to Hampton coach Joe Lafko. It's showed in not only Collin's play, but the team's overall play, as well. After a stretch where they lost three of four games, the Talbots (18-3, 10-3) have won seven in a row after winning at Seneca Valley, 64-61, Tuesday. Collin scored in double figures in the team's four most recent wins, averaging 15 points per game in that span.
"I think Collin Luther has been a key," Lafko said. "He's been playing much better and shooting the ball with much more confidence. He makes a huge difference for our team. Being a 6-foot-6 guard, he can do a lot of things on the basketball court because of his size. When you add his skill package to it, he can be a very good basketball player."
Ryan Luther, a 6-7 guard, leads the team in scoring (21.6 ppg) and is one of the most talented players in the WPIAL. Luther has scored at least 20 points in seven of the past eight games. Ryan has scholarship offers from Duquesne and Dayton, and Lafko said Iowa, Davidson and UNC-Wilmington are among the other schools showing interest.
"He does so much for our team, offensively and defensively. He's our leader," Lafko said.
Hampton continues to also get steady point production from sophomore guard David Huber.
The Talbots close section play Friday with a home game against top-ranked New Castle.
Foxes fight for section title
Few section title races can rival the drama taking place in Class AAAA Section 2, and Fox Chapel is right in the middle of it.
Entering Tuesday's play, Fox Chapel, Gateway and Central Catholic were tied for first place with 10-2 records. But Central knocked off Gateway, 79-76, and the Foxes were upset by Plum, 54-51 in overtime.
Fox Chapel (15-5) has had a favorable schedule down the stretch -- finishing section play with five consecutive home games -- and the Foxes had taken advantage of it. They held a five-game winning streak before that stunning loss to Plum Tuesday.
Fox Chapel, which was undefeated at home, closes section play Friday against Central Catholic in a game that will decide the title. Gateway (13-5, 10-3), the two-time defending WPIAL champion, plays McKeesport Friday at home.
Before the Foxes lost to Plum, Central Catholic had handed them their previous loss, 67-62, on Jan. 15. It was just one of many nail-biters for the Foxes, who have played in 13 games decided by seven points or fewer. The Foxes are 8-5 in those games.
North Catholic's Danny Savulchak, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, is one of the top scorers in the North Xtra area with a 20.6 points-per-game average.
Here are an opposing coach's thoughts on Savulchak:
"He plays the game so hard. The big thing with him is he's so difficult to defend. If you put a big guy on him, he's going to go around him. If you put a smaller guy on him, he's going to post him up. He's a guy who, when the chips are down, you know he is going to step up. When you have a guy like that, you're very fortunate."
Here are a few boys games to keep an eye on this week.
Friday, New Castle (20-0, 13-0) at Hampton (18-3, 10-3), 8 p.m. -- Another rematch of last year's WPIAL Class AAA championship. Both teams now in Class AAAA Section 3, New Castle won this season's first meeting, 75-54, with the help of Malik Hooker's 24 points. Hampton, though, trailed by just two points after three quarters. The Talbots have won seven games in a row since, but New Castle has won 44 consecutive regular-season games.
Friday, Burrell (14-6, 7-2) at Deer Lakes (15-5, 8-1), 7:30 p.m. -- What a story Deer Lakes has been! After winning only three section games the previous two seasons, the Lancers can win the Class AA Section 1 title outright with a win against Burrell. Deer Lakes has won eight in a row, while Burrell has won five in a row. Deer Lakes edged Burrell, 48-44, on Jan. 15. J.J. Kowalkowski led Lancers with 16 points.
First Published February 7, 2013 12:00 am