Hampton junior Meghan Murray eclipses milestone but Talbots fall short of PIAA playoffs

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Saturday, March 11, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Bored, restless and stuck at home during the lockdown three years ago, then-Hampton eighth grader Meghan Murray grabbed a notebook and jotted down five goals for high school basketball.

“One of them was ‘Get 1,000 points by junior year,’ ” she said.

Check.

Murray reached her goal on a free throw in the fourth quarter of the Talbots’ 55-44 loss to No. 3 seed McKeesport on Feb. 24 at Fox Chapel in WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinals.

The milestone was one of the highlights for the Talbots during a season that included a memorable team-bonding trip to Florida, a five-game section winning streak in late January, a WPIAL playoff berth and an upset victory over No. 6 seed Indiana in the opening round.

A 49-44 loss to Penn-Trafford in the WPIAL seventh-place consolation game March 2 — Hampton’s third postseason loss in a six-day span — prevented the Talbots (15-11) from reaching the PIAA playoffs for the first time since 2016-17. But it didn’t detract from a successful season.

“It was a really enjoyable season,” coach Tony Howard said. “The girls accomplished a lot. The chemistry was great all year. It was a good group to be around.”

Murray, who has offers from Niagara and Mercyhurst, led the way. The 5-foot-5 junior point guard averaged 19.7 points, 5.6 assists and 2.3 steals en route to earning first-team all-Section 2-5A honors for the second consecutive season. She scored 30 points in wins over Butler and New Castle, and 27 points in wins over Canon-McMillan and Fox Chapel.

In the WPIAL playoffs, she netted a game-high 21 points as No. 11-seeded Hampton upset Indiana, 45-44, at Fox Chapel in the first round. The undersized Talbots found a way to eliminate two of the WPIAL’s tallest players, 6-5 Eve Fiala, a Dayton recruit, and 6-4 Katie Kovalchick (W&J).

“We were super hyped in the locker room (after the game),” Murray said. “We were all smacking lockers and clapping. It was just really fun.”

The next game wasn’t as fun. The Talbots led No. 3 seed McKees­port, 32-22, early in the third quarter and Murray’s two free throws — including her 1,000th point — put Hampton ahead 44-43 with 2:55 to play. But game officials refused to halt the action to recognize Murray’s achievement, so Howard was forced to take a timeout.

“The WPIAL would not stop the playoff game for us,” Howard said. “I used a timeout to stop the game. It was the right thing to do.

“I feel bad because I don’t think she got her full due, especially as a junior. She definitely deserves more. I still feel bad about that. That is something that’s going to bother me for a long time.”

Hampton didn’t score again following the timeout, as McKees­port went on a 12-0 run to end the game.

“Thinking about it now, I wish we could have celebrated at the end and kept playing,” Murray said, “because I felt like we had really good momentum going.”

The Talbots will graduate one senior, second-team all-section forward Claire Rodgers (7.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg), who was selected to the West roster of the 26th Cager Classic all-star game March 25 at Highlands.

Among the returnees for next season include Murray, junior guard/forwards Emma Rick (team-best 6.1 rpg) and Sterling Thomson, junior guard Kathleen Milon (72 3-pointers) and junior forward McKenna Andrews.

“I thought we did really well and I thought we exceeded the expectations of people,” Murray said. “Going into the playoffs, it was fun to be the underdogs because it didn’t put too much pressure on us. We kind of just had fun.”

Murray, who has 1,032 career points, is on pace to pass Ali Collins, believed to be the Talbots’ all-time leader (1,383). Murray received the 1,000-point game ball from McKeesport officials after the WPIAL playoff loss, but the keepsake lacks a prominent spot in the wake of the season’s abrupt end.

“It’s laying on my bedroom floor right now,” Murray said.

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