No. 5 Hampton girls knock off two-time defending champion Blackhawk

| Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, 7:21 p.m.

When it comes to putting together a postseason championship run, knocking off the defending two-time WPIAL and PIAA champion is a great place to start.

No. 5-seeded Hampton did just that as the Talbots toppled No. 4 Blackhawk, 52-40, on Saturday in the WPIAL Class AAA girls quarterfinal at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic.

“We talked about believing all week,” Hampton coach Tony Howard said. “We talked about (keeping) positive energy, positive attitude and good things will happen, and they are buying into that.”

Hampton (19-5) moves on to the semifinals to face No. 1 South Fayette (20-3) on Wednesday at a time and site to be determined. Blackhawk (17-7) will continue its quest for a PIAA championship three-peat Monday in the PIAA play-in bracket against Chartiers Valley.

Hampton set the tone from the opening tip. Ali Collins scored the game's first points, and Hampton was off to the races. Blackhawk's Mady Aulbach tied the game with a basket, but that was the closest the defending champions got. The Talbots put together a six-point run to bring the score to 8-2 with a 4:43 to go in the first quarter.

“We seemed tight,” Blackhawk coach Steve Lodovico said. “Give them credit because they're hard to guard and (Jenna) Lafko did a really good job handling the ball for them.”

Hampton took its largest lead of the first half when Aaryn Griggs made two free throws to put the Talbots up 20-11. But just as things seemed to be going all Hampton's way, sophomore Laryn Edwards went down with an injury to her left foot with 3:45 remaining in the first half.

“(Edwards) thought she heard something pop. (The trainer) thinks it's an arch sprain or ankle sprain, which doesn't look too positive for the future,” Howard said.

Led by Aulbach and Tailyn Silver, Blackhawk went on a six-point run to shrink the deficit to 24-19 going into the half.

“Laryn is only a sophomore, but she plays older, and having somebody like that go down, a main scorer, is tough,” Lafko said. “You got to get everybody else involved and take your own shots, but there definitely was some pressure (on me).”

Lafko came out hot in the second half and scored 10 for her 17 points.

Blackhawk forward Mariah Evans scored all eight of the Cougars' third-quarter points on her way to a game-high 22, but Hampton grew its lead to 49-36 late in the fourth quarter to erase any ideas of a Blackhawk comeback.

“Today, I think we realized that we belong here, and when we work together as a team, we can accomplish great things,” Howard said.

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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