‘Natural progression’ has Hampton girls on right track

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Thursday, February 13, 2020 | 5:28 PM


Though the Hampton girls basketball team missed the playoffs this season, its trajectory is on schedule.

The Talbots couldn’t get over the hump in a difficult section but finished 7-14, 5-7 Section 2-5A. With one senior starter graduating, Hampton is looking forward to next season.

“I’m excited to sit back and look at what we accomplished,” coach Tony Howard said. “It was probably a natural progression this year. We had a little bit of success earlier in the year. We have a lot of people coming back, so we can build that hope.”

The team started 2-0 in section, but injuries and other absences added up, and Hampton was winless against the top three teams in the section: Gateway, Plum and Mars.

“They all had a D-I level, experienced player,” Howard said. “That’s just something we don’t have. We battled and competed better than we did last year with those teams, but we just couldn’t overcome that type of player.”

Perhaps next season.

“I think definitely some games we showed a little more of what we wanted to be,” junior point guard Olivia Bianco said. “But we took steps back some games. I think we could’ve made it if we played together 100% all of the time. We could’ve made a couple of those losses into wins.”

The Talbots will bring back four starters with at least two years of experience.

“I think we have to definitely practice and come together more,” Bianco said. “Just try to become closer and have a better connection between all of us.”

Sophomore Kayla Hoehler proved effective, leading the team in scoring at 12 points per game, including a 17-point outburst in the fourth quarter in a 40-31 win over Franklin Regional.

Sophomore guard Sophie Kelly led the team in assists (2.8 average).

“We’re looking for her to get more consistent because she has the skills, size and athleticism,” Howard said. “She has the ability to make others on the court better. But it’s tough when you’re a sophomore and going against girls that have scored 1,000 points, 6-foot guards. … I give her credit for taking those challenges.”

Not forgotten is the contributions of senior forward Katie Baker, who committed to Grove City. She led the team with 9.4 rebounds per game.

After facing numerous absences from injury and personal reasons earlier in the season, Howard said he might have implemented too much structure.

“I probably threw a little too much stuff at them,” he said. “I think we got better the second part of the year because we found a rhythm.”

Bianco agreed.

“I feel like whenever we were allowed to find what worked for us,” she said, “we were able to flourish and did well.”

Howard is looking forward to an influx of depth on a team that had 12 players.

More numbers could help lengthen the bench for a team that would like to use its quick guards to run the floor — but that formula commands depth.

“I’m hoping we could use this offseason to really get back out to running and pressing, more freedom and creativity,” Howard said. “We were limited on that this year.”

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