By Janee Law
Northport entered the fourth quarter Tuesday trailing Half Hollow Hills High School East by 13 points. But, with less than four minutes left to play, the Tigers shrunk the deficit and tied the game, 55-55.
Tensions were high as both teams battled for the win. In the final two minutes, Hills East regained the momentum, and jumped back out to a seven-point lead. The Thunderbirds staved off Northport’s comeback and won, 68-61.
Hills East coach Peter Basel said the momentum of the team shifted in the second half, after the Thunderbirds jumped out to a commanding 13-point lead in the first quarter.
“We had a lot of good things going on in the first half,” Basel said. “The second quarter didn’t end too well, and we got a little full of ourselves.”
Hills East junior captain Savion Lewis scored 17 points and dished out eight assists, while sophomore Shane Dean scored 15 points. Junior captain Julien Crittendon also scored 14 points for the Thunderbirds, which improved to 3-0 in Suffolk League II.
Northport’s top performers were senior Kevin Cryer-Hassett and junior Justin Carrano, who both scored 12 points. The loss was Northport’s first in League II play, and dropped its league record to 2-1.
Hills East is young, Basel said, but the team showcases “tremendous skill.”
But the game against Northport was reflective of the Thunderbirds’ season so far. They “haven’t been able to put teams away,” Basel said.
“We slack off or are selfish and go one-on-one,” he said. “Then, the next thing you know, a team like Northport, who’s very disciplined, they execute their stuff, they run the shot clock down and they hit threes.
“That’s been our Achilles heel this whole season, we can’t maintain what’s gotten us to that point.”
Other Thunderbirds who got on the scorecard were junior Kendall Nero-Clark, who scored 10 points; senior captain Kioni Nedd, who scored eight points; and junior Elijah Morrison and junior captain Kenny Mathurin, who each scored two points.
“We won the game, which is obviously our number one goal, but to let teams back in the game, we can’t do that,” Basel said. “You play with fire, you’re going to get burned sooner or later.”
In regards to the remainder of the season, Basel said Hills East will work on improving its defense, half court offense and leadership.
“Winning the league championship is definitely attainable and realistic, but we have to keep getting better at some of the little things that win games,” he added. “We still have a long season.”
The Thunderbirds are scheduled to travel to Lindenhurst tomorrow for a 4:15 p.m. tipoff.
Northport, meanwhile, is set to host Bay Shore at 6 p.m