Full roster could spell playoffs again for Hampton girls basketball

Thursday, January 2, 2020 | 5:42 PM

It might be too early to shout about, but Hampton girls basketball is back at the top of the section.

After a four-win season last year following seven consecutive playoff appearances, the team went into the new year 2-0 in its section. That put the team in first place despite a rash of injuries and absences leading the team to a 3-6 record.

Coach Tony Howard is OK with it, as long as the team comes together and wins the ones that count. The team has lost 20 player-games to injury and other absences.

“We’d like to have a few more wins,” Howard said. “But when you look at the scope of what we had, you’ve got a lot of moving parts right now.”

The team regained sophomore Kate Schmitt after a seven-game absence for the Hampton holiday tournament on Dec. 27-28. As she shook the rust off, other post players such as Katie Baker were missing in action. The team was out of rhythm as it lost to Upper St. Clair, 39-33, and North Hills, 36-32.

“The stats line, point-wise, you might not look at,” Howard said of Baker. “But she’s been averaging double-digit rebounds for us. She gives us a defensive presence we didn’t have. I have a hard time taking her off the court when she’s here. That changed the things we were trying to do.”

Junior Olivia Bianco and sophomore guard Kayla Hoehler have been the steady guards who have played every game. Hoehler leads the team with 13 points per game. Sophomore Sophie Kelly came back after a four-game absence and had 22 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in a 69-59 win over Freeport. Junior Cass Reinert also has contributed.

“She’s made some real big shots and just played some really good basketball for us,” Howard said. “She’s made some plays and gave us just what we needed.”

Even with a roller-coaster start that featured a three-game winning streak sandwiched between four- and two-game losing streaks, the team is hanging its hat on the good things it has done. Kelly missed the first four games, and the team struggled out of the gate but came back strong, especially in a 46-36 road win over Armstrong.

“The morale’s been really good,” Howard said. “First four games, the first four nights and we are missing our point guard, they weren’t easy, but I thought they did the best they could. I thought they really came together against Armstrong.”

The team had four girls in double digits against the River Hawks and three against Freeport.

“When we share the scoring, we’re a lot more effective and harder to guard,” Howard said. “We have a couple tough league games coming up. At that point, we get everybody back, and, hopefully, we can figure out a rotation and continuity.”


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