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Jayden Reid leads Long Island Lutheran past Half Hollow Hills East

Jayden Reid of Long Island Lutheran brings the

Jayden Reid of Long Island Lutheran brings the ball down court during a non-league boys basketball game against Half Hollow Hills East in Brookville on Thursday, December 9, 2021. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

After competing in only three games during this past season and having the 2020 season cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Long Island Lutheran boys basketball team is all revved up in hopes of returning to the glory of 2019’s conclusion.

As the last ones standing, being crowned State Federation champions.

The Crusaders certainly continued the early gearing up process in fine fashion on Thursday night, with Jayden Reid notching 30 points, four rebounds, four steals and two assists and James Johns adding 19 points in a 78-54 home victory over Half Hollow Hills East.

"It’s definitely exciting," Reid, a junior guard out of Westbury said. "I didn’t get a chance to compete in States either of my first two years. So this year I think we’ll have States and it’s just added fuel. I think we have a good chance at getting it and we’re coming after it, for sure."

The Thunderbirds (1-2) utilized a strong start to finish off the first quarter with a 21-17 lead. Jordan Heyman’s three-pointer from the left corner with 14 seconds left in the period capped off a 10-4 run for Hills East, the defending Suffolk Conference II champion.

LuHi (2-0) came back with a resounding response in the second. A 7-0 spurt over the first 1:15 of the quarter put the Crusaders ahead. Sam Gerstman’s layup for Hills East ended the run momentarily, but LuHi answered with a game-changing stretch.

Back-to-back threes from Johns preceded by a momentum-shifting, emphatic finish at the rim on an alley-oop pass from Reid gave LuHi a nine-point advantage with 4:50 left in the half.

"I saw that I was behind the defense and that [Reid] had a one-on-two," said Johns, a junior guard and Philadelphia native who recently transferred over from Florida. "He throws me lobs all the time in practice, so I just pointed up and fortunately he threw it up and it got to happen."

Reid then closed out the 13-0 run with a three and a floater to extend the Crusaders' lead to 37-23 two minutes later before LuHi entered halftime up 41-28.

"After the first quarter we just embraced the fact that it was a fight," Reid said. "We just came together and said ‘This is our quarter. This is the separating quarter.’ And we did that and that separated the game for us."

LuHi kept Hills East at arm’s-length the rest of the way. A pair of free throws from Xavier Lewis with 18.9 seconds left in the third cut the deficit to 52-41, but the Thunderbirds were unable to pull any closer from there.

Gerstman’s jumper brought Hills East to within 11 once again with 6:40 remaining, but an 8-0 run capped off by a rim-rocking dunk from Chestermere, Canada product Jaxon Koroll with 5:06 left gave LuHi another sizeable lead at 65-46 and essentially closed out the victory.

LuHi coach John Buck said nights like these will help prepare the Crusaders in their quest of returning to the ultimate triumph of their last complete season in 2019.

"Those are memories that we’ll look back one day, but our slogan for the year is ‘Earn everything,’" Buck said. "Nothing will be handed to you just because it’s LuHi basketball. As we saw tonight, we had to earn that win in the second quarter. Just transitioning that belief and vision to the guys. And they’re slowly but surely getting into that mentality of every possession needs to be earned."

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