Hampton's Luther reaches milestone in win
When Pine-Richland ventured into Hampton for a Class AAAA, Section 3 showdown, Rams coach Brian Gaetano acknowledged that the game was going to be a tough one.
The teams hustled and battled early as Hampton took an 18-10 advantage. Hampton guard David Huber was consistent, and star forward Ryan Luther was dynamic. For Pine-Richland, Pat Sullivan sparked the Rams with seven points off the bench.
But as the game wore on, Hampton asserted its depth. The Rams made too many errors, and the Talbots came away with a 68-34 win.
“I need to have them prepared better when it comes to these league games,” Gaetano said. “We gave Hampton extra opportunities with turnovers which were the result of not executing simple passes. We got down, they got comfortable, and when you are comfortable there is no pressure.”
Gaetano said losing by this margin with the team the Rams have in inexcusable and his team needs to focus more on the game plan.
The other side of the coin was a positive result for Hampton, a team that moved into Class AAAA basketball this season. Hampton was the Class AAA WPIAL runner-up last year and returns much of that team.
“I thought we played intense,” said Hampton coach Joe Lafko. “I knew Pine-Richland was going to play intense, and they did. I thought we matched them, got after the loose balls and boxed out well limiting them to one shot per possession.”
Lafko noted that this game was the first he had his whole complement of players. Collin Luther, Jon Floss and David Huber all missed some time along the way, but with everyone in place, a good team looked nearly unstoppable.
The result was a balanced attack that saw Ryan Luther score a game-high 20 points and earn career point 1,000 as a junior in front of his home crowd.
“It does mean a lot and gives me a little sense of accomplishment,” Ryan Luther said. “I have had great teams around me, and I am glad it is out of the way now so we can get back to focusing on the team.
“I am excited for us to prove ourselves in this section, the best in the WPIAL, where you can lose any night. Teams like North Allegheny, New Castle are always a battle, always a rivalry. We just have to take one game at a time.”
Lafko said he is proud of Ryan, and although the junior downplayed his milestone, Lafko put it in perspective.
“Ryan is a consistent player,” he said. “As a freshman, sophomore and now a junior. It is hard to believe he is only a junior.
“He has big-time potential, and he sat out almost a quarter and a half (against the Rams) and still got his 20 points. He also had some thunderous dunks that really energized the team.”
Shifting back to the team, Lafko said the perimeter play of Huber, Joey Lafko, Jack Obringer and Collin Luther has been a key factor to the success this season. The coach also said none of that shooting would be possible without the play of Jake Adams, Richard Ford and Trace McConnell, players who do the dirty work like setting good screens and playing within the scheme.
“This is an unselfish team, and we are confident we can play with a lot of teams,” Lafko said. “There is still a lot of basketball to be played. We are only halfway through this season, and there is still a grind (ahead).”
The Talbots were undefeated in section play as of early this week, and although Ryan and Collin Luther garner much of the attention, Lafko sports a pair of sophomore guards who look poised and explosive when needed.
Joey Lafko scored 10 points against Pine-Richland, and Huber scored 16. Although the scoring stands out, this dynamic duo made crisp passes, found open teammates, got after loose balls and caused chaos for the Rams' offense at times.
“We just come out and play hard,” Huber said. “We practice hard so we can play that way. We have great chemistry and are best friends on and off the court.
“We share the ball, run the floor well and are a real athletic team.”
Pine-Richland will look to regroup when it hosts North Hills at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 11. Then it hits the road to play Shaler at 7:30 p.m.
The Talbots will host Seneca Valley at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 11 then play at New Castle at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 15.
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.