Roster’s lone senior sets tone during successful season for Hampton girls

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Saturday, February 11, 2023 | 11:01 AM


When it comes to the Hampton girls basketball team, forward Claire Rodgers is one of a kind.

The 6-foot Rodgers is the only senior on the Talbots’ 13-player roster. Last season she was the lone junior, and two years ago she was the only sophomore on coach Tony Howard’s squad.

But as older players graduate and new ones arrive, Rodgers remains a steadying presence for the WPIAL Class 5A playoff-­bound Talbots.

“One thing about Claire,” Howard said, “this is almost like her third group of kids that she’s had to blend in with. She’s been the only one in her class.

“She had to blend in with one group of kids when they were going out the door, and now she’s got to blend in with another group of kids. That’s gotta be tough to do, not having your own core kids in your own grade.”

While two junior guards, Meghan Murray and Kathleen Milon, provide the bulk of the scoring, Rodgers is putting together her best season. She is averaging about 8.5 points and 5.0 rebounds, including a career-­high 19 points in 53-36 victory over Fox Chapel on Jan. 30 and 15 points in a pivotal 58-53 section win at Mars on Jan. 23.

Hampton was 7-3 in Section 2-5A (13-6 overall) as of Feb. 5 and has clinched a WPIAL postseason berth for the 29th time in the past 31 seasons.

“I feel like I’ve been playing pretty well,” Rodgers said. “I just try to be a good leader and stay calm in stressful moments and help them as much as I can.”

Rodgers has improved every season, mainly because of her increased confidence. She was apprehensive on the court during her early years. But she gained self-assurance while playing for Hampton and her AAU team, Get Ranked Basketball, and averaged 7 points and 4.1 rebounds last season for the section runner-up Talbots.

With five seniors, including former all-section guards Sophia Kelly and Kayla Hoehler, lost to graduation, Rodgers needed to increase her role as a scorer and a leader.

“I’ve definitely become more confident with my abilities and more aggressive when I’m playing,” she said. “I used to be more timid and very self-conscious about what I did. But now I just play much looser, and I play better.”

Rodgers gives the Talbots a third scoring option behind Murray (20 ppg) and Milon. She can present match-up problems because she’s big enough to post up, but she also is a reliable 3-point shooter. She is also a rangy, active defender.

Off the court, she volunteers at a local farm that offers a therapeutic horseback riding program for children with disabilities.

“She’s just done a great job,” Howard said. “She is the definition of a program girl. She improves every year in the offseason. She comes back better than she was the year before. She comes to every (workout) in the offseason. She gets along in the locker room.

“Every kid in the eighth grade and below should strive to be what she is.”

The Talbots were scheduled to learn their WPIAL Class 5A playoff opponent when the brackets were released Feb. 13. Rodgers, who said her college choice remains undecided, is hoping to build some postseason memories. Hampton has only one playoff victory in her three seasons, falling last year to Oakland Catholic in the first round after an 18-4 regular season.

“I’m really excited,” Rodgers said. “I just want to let everything go and be happy with how it ended and not be upset if I held anything back. I’m really motivated to go far in playoffs this year. I’m just going to let it all go. This is it. I can’t hold back at all.”

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