Hampton beats North Allegheny, marches on to final

Chris Harlan
| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 10:39 p.m.

Hampton lost its lead and its momentum but found its composure.

With its 10-point lead replaced by a four-point, fourth-quarter deficit, Hampton rallied Wednesday night for a 61-53 semifinal victory over North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs at Chartiers Valley.

“We lost our composure for a little bit, but we didn't panic,” said senior Ryan Luther, who scored 25 points and will make a third consecutive visit to Palumbo Center.

After falling behind early, North Allegheny rallied late to lead 46-42 with 5:50 left after a 13-0 run that stole momentum from Hampton. But the Talbots paused, collected themselves and scored the next eight points.

“North Allegheny's pressure forces you to do that,” Hampton coach Joe Lafko said. “They continue to bring in fresh bodies. This is the way they've been successful. We know that. There are going to be those spurts in a game where you have to call some timeouts, settle your kids down and withstand those runs. That's what we did.”

After a basket by Joey Lafko, a go-ahead layup and foul shot by senior Collin Luther with 4:48 left built a 47-46 lead that Hampton then held until the end.

“I'm so proud of this team for battling back when North Allegheny had all the momentum,” Joe Lafko said.

NA's lead lasted only 72 seconds. The team went more than three minutes without scoring.

“They made some plays,” NA coach Dave DeGregorio said of Hampton's recovery, “and we made some bad plays.”

The victory takes No. 2 Hampton (22-3) to Palumbo Center to face New Castle for the third consecutive year. The Talbots were Class AAAA runners-up to New Castle last season and Class AAA runners-up in 2012.

It's the sixth time since 2006 that Hampton will play for a WPIAL title. That Talbots were WPIAL champions in 2009.

“That's our goal every year,” Ryan Luther said, “but the last couple times we didn't get it done. … We have to be tough and see if we can make something happen.”

Hampton's David Huber had 15 points and Collin Luther added 12. David Haus led North Allegheny with 14 points and Michael Carter had 12.

Hampton held NA to just five 3-pointers.

This was the third matchup this season between No. 2 Hampton (22-3) and No. 3 North Allegheny (21-4). The rivals split their two-game Section 3 series and both outcomes were close. Hampton won the first in overtime, 62-61. North Allegheny won the second, 68-62.

“We've played NA a lot of times,” said Luther, whose Talbots also beat NA in last season's WPIAL semifinals. “We know how they go in runs. We had to make the tough plays in the fourth quarter.”

Hampton had led 30-22 at halftime behind Ryan Luther's 18 first-half points. A turnaround basket and foul shot by him in the third gave Hampton its largest lead. With 6:48 left in the third, the Talbots led 35-25.

“Ryan was really good all night,” DeGregorio said.

The third quarter ended tied at 42 when NA's Cole Constantino sank a tying 3-pointer with two seconds left, erasing what was left of Hampton's 10-point third-quarter lead. In the fourth, NA baskets by Carter and Elijah Zeise gave the Tigers a 46-42 lead with 5:50 left. It was the team's first lead since 3-2.

Hampton responded with a shot by Joey Lafko, a driving layup and foul shot by Collin Luther, a free throw by Ryan Luther and a basket by Jack Obringer. The 8-0 run gave Hampton a 50-46 lead with 2:33 left.

After a basket by Haus cut the lead to two, Hampton pulled away with baskets by Ryan Luther and Huber to lead 54-48 with 1:30 left. The Talbots made 7 of 8 free throws in the final 46 seconds, including four by Collin Luther.

“We had to settle down, gain our composure, make some plays and make our free throws at the end,” Lafko said. “We did that.”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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