The Half Hollow Hills East girls basketball team clung to a four-point lead at the end of the third quarter, but everything turned in the Thunderbirds’ favor once crosstown rival Half Hollow Hills West fell right into their trap.
Host Hills East ramped up an intense full-court defense in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s non-league game, sending two defenders to trap the ballhandler before midcourt.
Hills West couldn’t answer, and led by 18 points apiece from Alexa Wallace and Jess Womble, Hills East prevailed, 55-38, after beginning the fourth quarter with a 19-0 run.
“We were putting a lot of ball pressure on, so we were forcing a lot of turnovers,” Womble said. “We were just getting great traps.”
Wallace used her long reach to grab 11 rebounds and get into the passing lanes. “When we trap, we just try to get our hands up, close up the sidelines so we can get a lot of interceptions because we’re such an athletic team,” she said.
Hills East (3-1) led 16-8 after the first quarter, but a push in the second brought Hills West (3-3) within 22-21. Samantha Hinke’s jumper with 45 seconds left in the third quarter closed the gap to 36-32.
Hinke scored 31 points, the first time in Adam Cirnigliaro’s four seasons as Hills East coach that his team has allowed a 30-point scorer. She is Suffolk’s leading scorer with an average of 28.2 points per game.
The Thunderbirds limited everyone else, though, as Womble, Wallace, Sophia Tawil and McKayla Jones shined defensively. Jones took three charges and was responsible for defending Hills West point guard Kayla Robertson.
Hills East’s pressure allowed the lead to grow quickly, with four scorers contributing in the 19-0 spurt that ended with 29 seconds left in the game. Wallace attributed their success to scouting.
“During practice, we do like an hour or so of scouting, what they play on defense, what they play on offense,” she said.
Wallace, Womble and Jessie Maurer are the team’s senior captains and have been with Cirnigliaro since his first year coaching varsity. He and Wallace are confident in what they can accomplish this year.
“It’s been a four-year process,” he said. “They play year-round with me in AAU, so we’re all really on the same page right now.”
With an aggressive defense, playing at Hills East could be a trap for the powers of Suffolk Class AA.