Sophomore steps up for Hampton boys basketball team

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Sunday, March 6, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Liam Mignogna stands above the crowd in most instances.

Mignogna is a 6-foot-8, 225-pound sophomore frontcourt player on the Hampton boys basketball team.

He stood at the top of several statistical categories for the Talbots this season.

Mignogna led the team in field goal shooting percentage (55.7), two-point field goal shooting percentage (56.5), and two-point field goals made (100),

He ranked third in scoring with an 11.4 ppg average — behind junior guard Eric Weeks (12.9 ppg) and senior guard Matt DeMatteo (12 ppg) — and was second in free throws made with 38. He also attempted the most charity shots.

“Liam has had a good sophomore season,” said Joe Lafko, Hampton’s hall of fame coach. “He has a good shooting touch and has emerged as our team’s leading post presence along with junior Braxton Eastly and sophomore Robert Coll.

“Liam also has good range to shoot perimeter shots, which complements his skillset. I think our team looks to get the ball inside to him, which has helped our overall offensive scheme.”

Mignogna led the Talbots in rebounding by a wide margin with 154 — 56 offensive and 98 defensive.

He also accounted for a team-leading 17 blocked shots to go with nine steals.

“Liam has made a marked improvement from his freshman to sophomore year. It is a credit to the work he put in,” Lafko said. “He was one of many good post players in the section this season along with Shaler’s Logan Bernesser, Mars’ Chris Dvorak and Armstrong’s Cadin Olsen.

“Liam provided our team with a good offensive and defensive matchups. We look forward to his further development.”

Hampton ended its WPIAL season with a 13-11 record. The Talbots finished at 7-5 and in a third-place tie in Section 4-5A and went 1-1 in the WPIAL playoffs.

“We’ve played a very tough schedule,” Mignogna said. “I think we are a much better team than our record. We’ve played a lot of good teams close.”

Mignogna, a two-year letterman, is just 15 and as a freshman stood 6-7 and weighed 215. So there may be room for another minimal growth spurt for him.

“I think I’ll float around this size for the rest of my high school career,” he said. “I have room for improvement, and I feel I can really help this team win games in the future.

“I think we are going to have a great team next year too. We are all really good friends off the court and that will help with team chemistry.”

Lafko discussed his team’s WPIAL playoff experience, starting with its first-round win against Kiski Area.

“It was great to play again in a playoff-game environment which had a packed gym,” Lafko said. “After a bit of a sluggish start by both teams in the first half, we were able to play good defense and rebound well in the third quarter to open up a double-digit lead.

“Kiski created some transition baskets and made some 3s to cut the lead to five, but we were able to take care of the ball and make our free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.”

Mignogna registered a double-double for Hampton with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Weeks and DeMatteo netted 19 and 18 points.

“We had good balanced scoring in the game,” Lafko said, “and we put ourselves in a position to possible qualify for the PIAA tournament.”

Hampton went up against the only undefeated team in the 5A tournament in the WPIAL quarterfinal round.

“Facing the number No. 1 seed and No. 1-ranked team in the PIAA, I was pleased with our team’s response,” Lafko said. “When our bus pulled into the parking lot before the game, there was around 400 people already lined up waiting to get into the gym.

“The game sold out in six hours. It was a great environment for the kids. It was a fun environment to play in. I was proud of the way the team competed and executed our tempo-controlled offense game plan.”

Hampton held LH to its lowest point total of the season. The Mustangs average 75.7 ppg, the second-highest mark in the WPIAL.

“Defensively, we were able to limit Rodney Gallagher and Brandon Davis,” Lafko said, “but Laurel Highlands has so much scoring potential and Keondre Deshields and Jayden Pratt came through for them.”

DeMatteo and Mignogna were Hampton’s leading scorers in the game.

Seven teams in WPIAL 5A qualify for the PIAA playoffs. Thanks to LH’s victory Feb. 28 against Highlands in the semifinal round, Hampton was one of the seven state qualifiers.

Lafko has coached high school basketball for 32 years, including 26 at Hampton. His career record stood at 499-320 following the WPIAL playoffs.

The Talbots expected to make a strong push to help their coach achieve his 500th career win.

They are led by DeMatteo, the only senior in the starting five, Weeks, Mignogna, junior guard Brennan Murray and Coll, a sophomore forward. Eastly, a 6-4 junior center, is a top reserve.

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