BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — It took the most decorated player in Half Hollow Hills East history to end the late-season run of the McQuaid Jesuit Knights.
Savion Lewis sparked a pivotal surge to start the second half, and McQuaid fell 82-66 in the New York State Class AA semi-finals Saturday afternoon at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena.
“We were really hyped up,” said Lewis the Hills East all-time leader in points, assists and steals who was recently named “Mr. New York Basketball.” “The energy was there. We knew we had to do a little extra.”
Lewis finished a lay up in the open court and followed with a lay-in along the right side to spark a 13-0 Hills East run coming out of the locker room to turn a single-digit game into a 20-point affair.
“We just kept going,” Lewis added. “We didn’t change up or try to do anything new. We just kept playing Hills East basketball. When you play Hills East basketball, that gets you to the states.”
The run came after McQuaid recovered from an early deficit to make it a four-point game late in the first half.
“We knew we had to answer back,” Lewis said. “We couldn’t trade buckets. We had to get stops.”
Trailing 30-19, McQuaid’s Connor Zamiara connected on a free-throw line jumper. Jermaine Taggart converted a pair of free throws and followed with seven more points. The sophomore guard hit a corner 3 to make it a 30-26 game.
McQuaid still trailed by four when Taggart finished in the lane for a 34-30 game.
“That run getting back into the game was kind of a microcosm of the season,” McQuaid coach Jack Leasure said. “There have been tons of opportunities to give up, and we didn’t. I can’t say enough about the effort.”
Half Hollow Hills East won the opening tap and hit their first three shots to score the game’s first seven points. Lewis hit a baseline jumper. Shane Dean drilled a corner triple, and Julian Crittenden connected on two of his 20 points to give the Thunderbirds a 7-0 lead.
“Our focus was to not back down, to not fold,” Leasure explained. “They’re a big transition team. They go in bunches like that. I wanted to give us a chance to show we could respond, and we did. We got back in it. We made a really good push in the second quarter.”
But McQuaid could not recover from Hills East’s third-quarter push, and the Knights trailed 59-47 going into the fourth quarter.
“It was one of those games,” Leasure added. “We didn’t shoot it all too well. We didn’t defend in transition all that well; our not shooting well contributed to that.
“It’s really a footnote to how special this run was. It’s hard right now, but that was an unbelievable effort to rebound from that 4-7 start and get to this point.”
Harry Bruu came off the bench and gave McQuaid a spark with six points late in the first and early in the second quarter. The junior guard also took a pair of charges during a 6-0 McQuaid spurt.
McQuaid’s Anthony Iglesia led all scorers with 21 points. Taggart had 16. Zamiara finished with 12.
McQuaid (16-9) was making its first appearance in the state semi-final since 2003 when the Knights defeated Mount Vernon, 57-50 in a battle of undefeated teams.
Kenny Mathurin scored 16 points for Hills East (23-3). The Thunderbirds will play Liverpool (25-0) in Sunday’s championship. Liverpool outlasted reigning champion, Mount Vernon, 70-67 in the second semi-final.