Thunderbirds Set To Roar This Season

Hills East’s Thunderbirds are on track to have a superb season, says coach Peter Basel.  Photos/Phil Orlando

Hills East’s Thunderbirds are on track to have a superb season, says coach Peter Basel. Photos/Phil Orlando

By Sophia Ricco

The boys varsity basketball team at Half Hollow Hills High School East is ready to kick off their season with high hopes for the future and a strong starting five.

So far, the team has scrimmaged against West Islip, John Glenn, and Westbury, teams that have each presented their own challenges to overcome. Head coach, Peter Basel took this time to observe his players in action and has made adjustments to tighten up their plays and clean up mistakes. He felt the team was improving from game to game.

“These guys will recognize in each other strengths as they keep playing together and getting use to each other’s game,” Basel said.

Last year, the team had a sensational season, winning the Long Island Championship and making it to State Finals.


Only two players have returned from last year’s starting five. Captains, Max Caspi and Shane Dean, the only players with experience starting, are role models to other players. This early in the season, Basel is still fitting all the pieces of his team together.

He plans on completing the starting five with Shamar Moore-Hough, Sam Russo and Grant Pitcoff. Last season, these players were backups, but this year, the boys are all rising to the challenge of their final season.

Shamar Moore-Hough played “phenomenally” during scrimmages and Basel is excited to see what he does this season. Sam Russo will start at point guard, a position he has been handling well so far, leaving Basel feeling confident in his abilities.

Grant Pitcoff will take the court as a starter forward. Basel said Pitcoff has grown taller, stronger and more confident in his game.

“It looks like we’re headed in the right direction with those three guys, as far filling out that starting five,” Basel said.

Basel brought up talented junior varsity players and two 8th graders to the team. In his 17 years of coaching, Basel has never had two 8th graders make the team, but feels it is justified with the skills and physicality both posses. Dante Green and Christian Bliss proved themselves playing with the team during the offseason, and Basel believes they will be an asset to the team right away.

“It’s warranted with the validity of these players skills and talents,” Basel said.

This season the team will play 16 league and four non-league games. Basel admits this is the most games he has seen on a schedule, making it crucial for the players to not become worn out.

“It’s important to give rest when rest is needed,” Basel said.

In his 17 years as head coach, Basel said his teams are most successful when he allowed his players time to relax. As the season progresses, he plans to give them time off during the weekends and breaks from school.

“We work them hard early in the season, then kinda cut it down once the second league game comes around,” Basel said. “I like to keep the kids fresh. I’m always throwing new drills at them and they’re always chomping at the bit to learn new drills to spice practices up.”

The team is able to lay off later in the season, since the players put in so much hard work during the offseason. The boys have been practicing and playing together since the summer league at St. Anthony’s and continued to train at Hills East’s fall ball.

“It gives the boys more opportunities to play together, work on their skills and represent Hills East to keep the tradition of winning going on,” Basel said.

This season, the team’s goal is to win the League II title for the third year in a row. After that, the team hopes to progress in the playoffs and “let the chips fall where they may”.

The team is most looking forward to playing against Northport, Smithtown West, Bay Shore and Connetquot, teams that will all give them a challenge. The team’s first games of the season will be against Bayport, Dec. 6 and East Meadow, Dec. 7.