By Andrew Wroblewski
The Thunderbirds started the league season out on the right foot Tuesday night, sprinting to a 80-69 win over North Babylon.
Hills East, which hounded the Bulldogs to create fast-break opportunities throughout the game, was fueled by Savion Lewis, who led all scorers with 34 points, including four three-pointers.
“The running game is so much fun,” Lewis said. “We have the pieces to do it – we’re not playing with guys who need to slow things down. We’re not playing at most other teams’ pace. We’re playing Hills East basketball, which in a nutshell is: ‘Run, run, run.’”
Coach Peter Basel agreed. “That’s our bread and butter... our game – turning people over on defense and then just going out on transition.”
A majority of Lewis’ points came in transition as he either led the Thunderbirds up the floor, or was found by quick passes from his teammates.
One of the connections that yielded the most success was between Lewis and Julian Crittenden, who finished with 17 points of his own.
The pair has both on- and off-the-floor chemistry, Lewis said.
“We know each other so well,” Lewis said, noting that the now seniors have taken the court together since fifth grade. “And it’s great because no one knows how to read us.”
The Bulldogs had difficulty slowing Hills East down throughout the contest. The score was tight, 23-19, at the end of the first quarter, but Hills East took a 13-point advantage into the second half and never looked back.
The Thunderbirds were also fueled by Kendall Nero-Clark, who recorded his first double-double of the young season with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Starting the season off on the right foot was important for the squad, said coach Basel, especially coming off the program’s first Suffolk-championship-winning season, which ended with a one-point loss in the Long Island championship game.
Tuesday night's win improved Hills East to 2-0 overall this season; the Thunderbirds defeated Brentwood, 73-69, in comeback fashion on Dec. 9 in non-league play.
Next up for Hills East is a Suffolk League III game against Huntington (1-4) that’s slated for 4:30 p.m. tonight at Huntington High School.
Basel said the Thunderbirds “can’t take any games lightly… We want to get that one seed.” Achieving that will help the Thunderbirds to their ultimate goal, he added.
“We want to get back to the Long Island championship game and win it.”