Here is some friendly advice to future opponents of the Half Hollow Hills East boys basketball team: Do not call the Thunderbirds’ talented guard Savion Lewis “overrated.”
That’s exactly what a contingent of visiting Ward Melville fans did to the Quinnipiac signee in a Suffolk AA quarterfinal on Tuesday.
“I’ve heard ‘overrated’ a lot at away games, but this is the first time I’ve heard ‘overrated’ [at home],” said Lewis, who had only six first-quarter points. “I usually react well against it. I try to stay calm, but it always gets to me. I don’t know why they do it. It gets me mad.”
An angry Lewis equaled a productive Lewis. The 6-1 guard scored 18 of his 40 points in the second quarter to lead top-seeded Hills East to an 84-72 win against No. 8 Ward Melville before a boisterous crowd of 500 which included Quinnipiac coaches Baker Dunleavy and Tom Pecora.
The defending Suffolk AA champ Thunderbirds (19-2) face No. 4 Brentwood (16-5) in a semifinal at Farmingdale State at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
“I know how to score different ways,” said Lewis, who added seven rebounds, four assists and four steals. “If I’m not shooting well [on three-pointers], I’m going to pull up from mid-range and attack. I’m not one-dimensional.”
Indeed. After a slow first quarter when Lewis missed seven shots from the field, mostly long jumpers, he settled down. The guard found his rhythm thanks to the Thunderbirds’ aggressive half-court defense. He had 24 points as Hills East led 38-31 at the half. Teammate Julien Crittendon had just four points.
“He took some quick shots in the first half,” said Thunderbirds coach Peter Basel about Crittendon. “We told him to settle down and be patient.”
That’s just what Crittendon did. He had nine points and Lewis added eight in the third quarter as Hills East led 62-47. Crittendon finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and five steals, and Kendall Nero-Clark added eight points and 11 rebounds.
The Thunderbirds went ahead by as many as 18 points twice early in the final quarter and seemed poised for a blowout. But Ward Melville, which also lost to Hills East in the quarterfinal a year ago, battled and were led by Alex Sobel. The 6-8 center scored eight points in the fourth quarter and ended with 31 points and 15 rebounds.
The Patriots climbed within 74-66 on a three-pointer by Brendan Martin (10 points) with 2:40 left. However, Ward Melville (17-5) never got closer than nine points.
“These guys are so driven and so hungry,” Basel said, “I don’t really have to motivate them or get them worked up.”
The Ward Melville crowd took care of that for Lewis.