Much improved from last season, Hampton boys basketball still has work to do

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Saturday, January 29, 2022 | 11:01 AM


After treading water through the first half of their Section 4-5A basketball schedule, the Hampton Talbots were looking to make a big splash and strong playoff push down the season’s home stretch

Hampton posted a 3-3 section record through mid-January, flip-flopping wins and losses against Plum, Highlands, Armstrong, Shaler, Indiana and Mars.

One of the Talbots’ chief catalysts is 5-foot-11 senior guard Matt DeMatteo, who averages 13 ppg and is joined in the starting lineup by junior guards Brennan Murray and Eric Weeks and sophomore forwards Robert Coll and Liam Mignogna.

DeMatteo, a quarterback/defensive back who led the Hampton football team to its best-ever season last fall, is an all-section backcourt player. He was the Talbots’ leading scorer in six of their first 14 games, including a season-high 22-point performance in the team’s section opener against Plum.

“I am really proud of the team,” DeMatteo said. “We’ve had some guys grow into some bigger shoes and step up in a big way that contribute to the team.”

DeMatteo is the son of former Hampton football coach Jacque DeMatteo. He is a three-sport standout and has earned three varsity letters in football, basketball and track.

In another individual highlight this season, Murray, a third-year varsity letterman, connected for 21 points and dished out seven assists in a 70-35 win Jan. 21 at Plum.

“I’m happy with how we have competed this season,” Murray said. “We practiced hard in the offseason and knew that with every team we played, it would be a battle. We have lost a few close games, especially in section, but we hope to win some of these games the second time around. We knew with our section that every game was going to be competitive and a fight.

“I’m also happy with the growth in our team since last year, too. We have been working hard on and off the court and it has definitely shown.”

The sharp-shooting Weeks tossed in 32 points with four triples against Grove City in December and 19 points including five triples Jan. 22 at Moon. He also scored 17 points Jan. 21 at Plum and Dec. 23 against Peters Township.

The 6-8, 240-pound Mignogna was Hampton’s leading scorer in three contests, including 18-point performances against both Peters Township and Mars.

Top reserves for the Talbots include 6-4 junior center Braxton Eastly, senior guard/forward Bobby Oliver and senior guard Zander Plizga, a starter on Hampton’s WPIAL and state championship soccer team.

Thanks to last year’s covid-impacted open tournament, the Talbots are aiming to extend their run of 17 consecutive trips to the WPIAL playoffs this season.

They were in fourth place in the section at the halfway mark, trailing Mars, Highlands and Shaler. And with an 8-7 record, the Talbots already doubled last year’s win total when they finished 4-16.

“My expectations were to come in this year and be better and improve from last year,” DeMatteo said, “and continue to help the team win any way I could.

“I expect nothing but the best effort and attitude the rest of the season, and to finish strong.”

Murray also wants to end the regular season on a strong note — “make every game count” — as a qualifier for the WPIAL playoffs.

“And win games there,” he said.

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