Hampton boys basketball eager for restart
Sunday, January 10, 2021 | 9:00 AM
Joe Lafko has seen a lot in three decades as a basketball coach, but this is the first season he has held court at a computer screen.
During a three-week shutdown of high school winter sports because of the covid-19 pandemic, the Hampton boys basketball team joined for twice-a-week Zoom meetings to try to maintain a sense of routine.
The coaches and players, who returned to practice Jan. 4, held virtual gatherings every Tuesday and Thursday with about 20 minutes of face time followed by 30-40 minutes of coach-directed workouts.
“We get a chance to talk to the boys and see how their days are going,” Lafko said. “It’s been nice to see the kids and communicate as a team.
“We give them updates and what changes have taken place on our schedule. It’s been met with smiles.”
After the briefings, the players worked out together on Zoom to keep in shape for the return to play.
“We do pushups and some cardio,” senior guard Quinn Morrow said. “Everybody is also going outside and getting a ball in their hand, shooting, just staying ready for the season.”
The 2020-21 winter season came to a halt when Gov. Tom Wolf “paused” all high school sports Dec. 12 because of a statewide spike in covid-19 cases.
The shutdown ended Monday, Jan. 4, and, after a mandatory four days of practice, the Talbots were scheduled to return to action against visiting Chartiers Valley on Friday, Jan. 8.
Unlike many WPIAL teams, the Talbots were able to play their opener on Dec. 11, ahead of the 12:01 a.m. Dec. 12 deadline to pause high school sports.
Although the Talbots lost to Fox Chapel, 57-44, Lafko said it was a valuable experience. After a slow start, the Talbots held a 26-22 scoring edge in the second half against Fox Chapel, a Class 6A program that went 21-2 last season.
“We’re still trying to find ourselves,” Lafko said, “but I really like the way we responded and showed no quit.”
Hampton (0-1) had nine games impacted by the shutdown. Two of them — Penn-Trafford and Grove City — were scrapped. The other seven were moved to later dates in a season that has been extended two weeks by the WPIAL to Feb. 26. The WPIAL also will hold an open tournament this season with every team getting a playoff invitation.
“I think the signs are encouraging,” Lafko said. “We have to recognize that January is going to be a tough time, but we’ll just deal with it like we have so far.
“We’re trying to keep positive and adjust to it as we go.”
After hosting Chartiers Valley on Jan. 8, Hampton was scheduled to visit Knoch the following day. The Talbots have back-to-back games four times on their remaining 19-game schedule.
“We should be fine,” Morrow said. “We’re all staying in shape. We’re all young. I think it’s going to be kind of neat to play back-to-back games.”