At key moments, Half Hollow Hills East turned its Suffolk Class AA semifinal against Brentwood into a halfcourt game.
Not because the Thunderbirds slowed things down. Quite the opposite. Their blazing backcourt of Julien Crittendon and Savion Lewis made so many steals that the Indians couldn’t get the ball across midcourt.
“They got their hands on everything,” Hills East coach Peter Basel said after a thorough 87-67 victory punctuated by Lewis’ 36 points and four steals and Crittendon’s 17 points and eight steals before a crowd of more than 3,500 at Farmingdale State. “The last six to eight games, those two have really meshed well together. Julien is an incredible offensive talent in transition and Savion is so quick, you just can’t guard him. He gets by people and finishes at the rim.”
Among the duo’s dazzling plays were Hills East’s last two baskets of the first half. Crittendon made a backcourt steal, drove to the rim and delivered a no-look, behind-the-back pass to Lewis for an easy basket. On the Thunderbirds’ next trip, Lewis made a shake-and-bake move to free himself for a long three that swished just before the buzzer. He was beaming as he ran off the court with a 43-28 lead.
“It’s definitely a lot of fun to play in transition. We’re a run-and-gun team,” said Lewis, Long Island’s leading scorer with a 33.5 average.
Lewis had even more fun in the third quarter, using his quickness and creativity to score five baskets. There was a blow-by using his left hand off glass, a reverse using the rim to avoid a block attempt by 6-8 Zed Key, a pull-up jumper, a swoop down the right side banked high off the glass and a righty up-and-under flip over Key.
“Zed is a great shot-blocker who can get to anything, so I had to adjust,” Lewis said. “I tried different angles to lay it up.”
The top-seeded Thunderbirds (20-2) played all the angles well, making 21 steals to advance to Tuesday’s Suffolk Class AA final against No. 2 Deer Park at 7:30 p.m. at Farmingdale State.
Kenny Lazo led fourth-seeded Brentwood (16-7) with 20 points.
The defending county champion Thunderbirds showed little emotion after reaching the title game again. “We’re not going to celebrate until we go farther than last year,” Lewis said, referencing a loss to Westbury in the Long Island championship game. “This is a business trip.”