Highlands boys keep pace with crucial win over Hampton

Tuesday, January 25, 2022 | 10:02 PM

Trailing first-place Mars by just a game in Section 4-5A, Highlands knows it needs every win to stay on the heels of the Planets.

The Golden Rams kept pace Tuesday, emerging with a 69-53 victory at Hampton, where many visiting teams have had problems over the last 40 seasons.

Junior Jimmy Kunst and sophomore Bradyn Foster led the way for Highlands with 19 points each. Junior Chandler Thimons had 16 points and 12 rebounds.

The Golden Rams are 6-1 in the section and 11-4 overall.

“This was a good win for us,” Highlands coach Corey Dotchin said. “”We have to keep the pressure on ourselves to have a chance at the end of the season to go compete for the section. That’s team goal number one, and this is just another step toward it.”

Highlands led 16-15 with 17.8 seconds left in the first quarter. But the Golden Rams went on an 11-0 run to take control 27-15 on Foster’s third-chance basket.

“Highlands is a good team. You have to play four good quarters to best them,” Hampton coach Joe Lafko said. “First half, they opened up too big of an advantage for us, though I was pleased we battled back at times.”

The Golden Rams increased their lead to 40-25 by halftime. The Talbots cut the lead to 51-39 during the first minute of the fourth quarter, but that was as close as Hampton (8-7, 4-4) would get.

Foster continued his improvement with his 19 points, stepping back behind the arc for a basket to give Highlands a 19-15 lead just before the first quarter ended.

In the third quarter, the 6-foot-8 forward was called for a technical for hanging on the rim during a dead ball. He came back soon after with a slam that counted to put the Golden Rams ahead 48-31 with 2 minutes to go in the third quarter.

“The sky’s the limit for him,” Dotchin said of Foster. “We continue to tell him that. It’s part of the growing-up process. He has all the intangibles and the tools to do it.”

Highlands will return home to face Armstrong on Friday and can all but wrap up an eighth straight trip to the WPIAL playoffs with a victory over the River Hawks.

Said Dotchin: Our younger guys are figuring it out and coming along, so we feel that’ll be a recipe for success going into the future. We knew coming into this that it would be a tough game. They’re coached by one of the best coaches in the WPIAL.”

The Talbots were led by senior Liam Mignogna’s 13 points. Matt DeMatteo and Eric Weeks added 10 each.

Hampton needs to collect a few wins to stay ahead of Armstrong for fourth place as it seeks its 18th consecutive trip to the WPIAL playoffs.

“We’ll take this one game at a game,” Lafko said. “We’ll regroup (Wednesday) and get ready for the last couple of weeks of section play.”

Highlands outrebounded Hampton, 36-21.

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