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Hampton boys basketball knows way to playoffs

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Hampton’s Colby Mignogna grabs a rebound from Mars’ Michael Carmody during PIAA Class 5A first-round action Friday, March 9, 2018 at Fox Chapel High School.

A team playing its best basketball at the end of the year always has a chance.

Coach Joe Lafko’s teams have done that, in particular the last four seasons at Hampton.

The boys basketball team has earned an annual state playoff berth since 2015. Last season, after a rough start, the Talbots turned things around to make the second round of the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs.

“That’s a sign of the kids’ commitment in continuing to stick with it and learn,” Lafko said. “It’s always a good sign if you’re playing your best basketball at the end of the season and not the beginning.”

It would be reasonable to hope for a similar arc this year as last year’s mediocre overall record (11-13) didn’t matter. By the end of the season, Hampton was a quality basketball team.

Challenges lay ahead. The team lost its senior leader Adam Bittner to graduation. Leading scorer Isaac DeGregorio transferred to North Catholic to play for his father, Dave, who was an assistant at Hampton the past two seasons.

“There’s a lot of concerns for us right now,” Lafko said. “From what we’re seeing from practices and early scrimmages, we’ll just keep on working on our weaknesses and building on our strengths.”

One of those concerns won’t be size. Junior guard/forward Colby Mignogna (6-foot-3) and junior Ben Ringeisen (6-5) return. Sophomore Seth Koontz (6-3) will push for varsity time, as well.

“It’s something we think we will be able to take advantage of,” Lafko said. “Mismatch opportunities in the post, that’s a strength of this team I think, once we’re able to recognize those mismatches.”

Mignogna started every game last season and along with senior guard Josh Winek hopes to become a standout player.

“Colby is going to be looked upon to carry a lot of our scoring and provide some on-floor leadership,” Lafko said. “Josh, he played substantial minutes and important situations. So he will also be looked on to be a major factor in this team’s success.”

Senior guard/forward Brandon Sickles and junior guard Luke Lindgren are also returning lettermen, though Lafko doesn’t see anyone as a true floor general at the guard position.

“Point by committee,” he said. “I don’t think we have what I’d call a point guard. We have guards that can handle the ball and initiate offense, take care of what we need in a press situation. I don’t really define positions like that, especially this year.”

Junior Matt Govi and sophomores Ben Liden, Quinn Morrow and Colin Murray logged solid minutes in junior varsity last year and hope to step into a more prominent role.

“Those guys will look to contribute some time,” Lafko said. “There’s some young guys giving us some pleasant surprises in the early season.”

Realignment and a new season bring a different look to Hampton’s section, which was one of the toughest in Class 5A the past two years.

Most notably, Mars standout Robby Carmody, who gave Hampton and every other WPIAL team fits, is at Notre Dame. Chartiers Valley, Moon, Montour and West Allegheny also had recent success.

The WPIAL elected to move Mars and Hampton to a more geographically friendly section with Indiana, Plum, Shaler, Kiski, Armstrong, and Franklin Regional, which lost to Mars in the Class 5A final in February.

“Looking at the section the past couple of years, back when there was four classifications we played in some powerhouse sections,” Lafko said. “So we’re familiar with that, at least as a coaching staff … we take it one game at a time and play for that.”

Devon Moore is a freelance writer.

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