‘Fired up’ Hampton freshmen win summer basketball title
Saturday, July 16, 2022 | 11:01 AM
Summer basketball leagues are built around staying in shape and building team chemistry.
But bringing home a championship doesn’t hurt.
Hampton used a late basket by Andrew Butler to defeat North Catholic, 38-37, on June 30 at Montour to win Pittsburgh Basketball Club summer league freshman championship.
“Even though it’s a summer game, everyone was all fired up the whole game,” Hampton point guard Gavin Guinn said. “We didn’t take it lightly.”
The Talbots, comprised of players who will be freshmen in the fall, clinched a playoff spot in the six-team league with a victory over North Hills in the regular-season finale. They advanced to the title game with a dominating 38-5 semifinal victory over Moon, avenging a loss in the summer opener.
“That first game, we hadn’t played organized basketball in a couple of months, so we were getting back into the hang of things,” Guinn said. “By the playoffs, we had finally found our rhythm.”
Said freshman coach Scott Breen: “They are all really focused kids. Their future is really good. They played really well, especially as we went along during the summer. Their defensive play got a whole lot better.”
It was Hampton’s third PBC freshman league title under Breen, including the 2011 team that Breen said won 10 straight summer league games and then didn’t lose a game in the high school season, going 30-0 overall.
The top players this summer were wing Zach Danner, Guinn and Butler. They were part of a Hampton team that went 19-3 last season as eighth-graders.
“I think they are an athletic, talented group,” Hampton eighth-grade coach Joe Lagnese said. “But the big thing is that a lot of them are really committed to basketball. They love it, and they work at it, and they want to be good players. That obviously goes a long way.”
Other members of the PBC-winning team this summer were Drew Bosetti, Jonas Cupps, James Derence, Tony Imbarlina, Drew Interthal, Hunter Richardson, Luca Romero-Lauro, Mikey Solomon and Zach Virbitsky.
With summer vacations and jobs, attendance at summer league games can be inconsistent. But Hampton’s freshmen gave Breen and assistant Chris Anastas a steady group to work with.
“These kids were pretty good, I have to admit,” Breen said. “A lot of them showed up all the time. In past summers, I’ve had five kids show up. Or maybe four, and I’d grab some other kid that I know to come and play. These kids were pretty consistent. I had at least eight guys every game. I was really pleased with the fact that they all showed up.”
In the title game, North Catholic, which had beaten Hampton earlier in the summer, took a 37-36 lead with about 11 seconds to play. But Butler drove for the go-ahead basket with under four seconds to play, and Hampton denied North Catholic’s next possession.
The Hampton varsity team also had a solid summer in the PBC League, reaching the playoffs before losing to eventual champion Central Catholic in the first round.
Talbots coach Joe Lafko, inducted this summer into the Hampton Athletic Hall of Fame, is encouraged by the work of his young players.
“They are a committed group,” Lafko said. “They commit to get better individually, and I think it showed also collectively. Those are two key aspects of successful teams, when you dedicate yourself to improve both as an individual and as a team.”
Hampton’s eighth-grade and freshman teams last season went a combined 39-7. Now the rising freshman own a summer league title on top of it. How they fare at the high school level remains to be seen.
“Of course, it’s an early indicator,” Lafko said. “But a lot of improvement needs to happen from the time they are freshmen until they are seniors. The groups that continue to develop and get better are the ones that will also (win) championships when they are varsity players.”
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