Home-court advantage helps Hampton boys overcome obstacles

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Thursday, February 13, 2020 | 5:28 PM


Whatever adversity the Hampton boys basketball team faced this season, it can take comfort in there’s no place like home.

The Talbots (11-10, 9-5) cruised to an undefeated section record at home, which helped to another WPIAL playoff appearance. Hampton has missed the playoffs once since 2004.

“We definitely thrive off the energy of our fans,” said senior forward Ben Ringeisen, who cited a 75-62 victory over Shaler as the best example. “We were all floating on air that night. We came ready to play. At that point, we still had a chance of getting the section championship.”

The Talbots, however, have been through some rough spots. Road losses dashed any hopes of a section title, and senior guard Luke Lindgren is out for the season with a leg injury.

“Sometimes it’s a disappointing loss,” coach Joe Lafko said. “Sometimes it’s losing a player to injury and sometimes just not playing well. It’s been a real pleasure to watch and see their commitment. What’s been impressive with this team is they’ve come back and continued to fight.”

Behind a stifling defense, Hampton gave up the least amount of points in Class 5A. The main reason is its big men in the middle, Ringeisen and classmate Colby Mignogna.

“I think rebounding is a huge factor,” Lafko said. “I give lots of credit to Ben and Colby, but we’ve also had others step up.”

Ringeisen credits the staff for having the team ready to play and Lindgren’s continued involvement.

“Obviously, we have great coaches,” Ringeisen said. “But another one of our coaches is Luke. I think he’s the best defender. I’d take him in 5A over anyone. We listen to him.

“Colby and I know we have to be leaders. We both take a lot of pride in blocking shots and defending the paint. But our young guys have stepped up playing the perimeter.”

The Talbots shut down eventual section champs Mars in a home matchup with its 2-3 zone, holding the Planets to a season-low point total in a 42-37 victory.

“Zones also typically allow slower tempo, so we were able to control it,” Lafko said. “That allows us to dictate some of the offensive opportunities.”

Conversely, when Hampton doesn’t control the boards, the results show it. Mars came back strong in the last section game of the season, outrebounding Hampton by nearly a 2-to-1 margin in a 67-41 loss.

“It wasn’t what we didn’t do,” Lafko said. “It’s what Mars forced us to do. I give them a lot of credit on the defensive end and controlling our rebounding. Michael Carmody is probably the main reason for that, but give them credit.”

Hampton was set to go into the playoffs hoping it could make teams pay for trying to slow down Ringeisen and Mignogna on the inside.

“It’s no secret that Ben is a central part of our offense,” Lafko said. “When he gets going, we get going. Colby is also a big part. … Teams have worked hard to take those guys away. What that does is it creates opportunity for other guys.”

Ringeisen said he has enough experience against teams concentrating on him that he believes it won’t be as big a factor. North Hills run a box-and-one against him, and he played through an arm injury against Kiski Area with Mignogna’s help.

“I told Colby, ‘I’m going to try to draw their attention, but you’re going to have to put the ball in the hoop,’ ” Ringeisen said. “He knows he’s got to take over. As far as our guards go, especially Colby, is really unselfish and I think he leads our team in assists. He’ll find you. They just have to be able to knock down shots.”

Regardless of outcome, the season saw plenty of reasons to believe Hampton showed heart and toughness against adversity.

“We knew our section would be very competitive,” Lafko said. “You saw teams even like Indiana come out with two wins late in the year. I’m pleased with our team’s resilience.”

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