If Savion Lewis is fire, then Julien Crittendon is ice.
Lewis sizzled with 40 points and Crittendon was cool with 25 and the senior backcourt duo scored 38 of No. 1 Half Hollow Hills East’s 42 first-half points in an impressive 74-52 victory over No. 2 Deer Park Tuesday night in the Suffolk AA championship game played before a roaring crowd of more than 4,000 fans at Farmingdale State College.
The Thunderbirds (21-2) made it back-to-back county crowns. “That’s what we’ve been trying to do all year,” said Lewis, Long Island’s leading scorer. “When one of us is on fire and then the other is on fire, who do you guard?”
It was a question Deer Park (20-3) could not answer, though the Falcons hung around in an action-packed first half. But the Thunderbirds went on a 14-0 run just before halftime, with Crittendon nailing two of his four three-pointers and Lewis also connecting from downtown after a tricky pump fake. Hills East led 42-28 at the break with Lewis scoring 20 and Crittendon 18.
The second half belonged to Lewis, who made three open-court layups in the third quarter and began the fourth quarter with a tough drive down the lane in traffic that he turned into a three-point play. Later in the fourth, Crittendon delivered two long passes to his friend for transition baskets.
“We’ve been playing together forever. We feed off each other,” Crittendon said.
The dynamic duo will be playing together some more. Hills East faces Class A Amityville for the Suffolk Overall Championship on Friday at 7:30 at Farmingdale State and then zeroes in on its season-long goal of winning the Long Island Championship when it faces either Uniondale or Baldwin on March 10 at 8:30 at FSC for a berth in the state Final Four in Binghamton.
“They live for the big stage,” Hills East coach Peter Basel said. “Look at this place. Full house. Great atmosphere. They feed off each other’s energy.”
Deer Park made some of its own noise with its youthful backcourt of sophomore Malik Edmead (14 points) and freshman D’Andre Edwards (12 points). Edmead was hot early, with six first-quarter points. That’s when Basel made a defensive shift, an aptly named maneuver he called “fire.”
“Edmead is a great shooter. So we called ‘fire’ which means we blitz the dribbler,” Basel said. Often that double-team led to turnovers and the Thunderbirds are in the drivers’ seat when that happens.
“The transition game is our type of game,” Crittendon said. “We’re hard to beat when we’re running, making our shots and playing defense.”
Lewis seconded that notion. “Defense is a mentality,” Lewis said. “We know we’re athletic on offense and we like to dominate. But defense is what wins championships. When we play together, we’re unstoppable.”
If Fire doesn’t get you, Ice will.