Thunderbirds Nailing Down Chemistry

HALF HOLLOW HILLS, New York, Dec. 11

BY: Andrew Wroblewski

Last season, Half Hollow Hills High School East couldn’t have asked for a better boys basketball season. The Thunderbirds, awarded the No. 3 seed in the Suffolk County playoffs, lost just two games on their way to a 20-2 overall record. The success was obviously welcomed by Head Coach Peter Basel, but most of those who were able to bring Hills East that success have since graduated.

But Basel hasn’t, and this season he’s working with a new group of hoops athletes, and the group is working on its chemistry – team chemistry, that is.

“A lot of these guys didn’t play many minutes last year,” Basel said. “We’re just trying to work on our chemistry and experience right now. This is a pretty skilled team, but they just haven’t logged the minutes at the varsity level yet.”

On Dec. 5, that lack of experience came to light with a loss to Commack in a non-league contest – the team’s first of the year – where the Thunderbirds fell 57-45. Hills East’s senior captain Justin Fackler – whom Basel expects big things from this year – was held to just 9 points in the setback. Instead, D’Nathan Knox, a junior, came off the bench to provide Hills East some offensive firepower with his 12 points.

“He’s coming off of the bench right now so he’s still finding his way,” Basel said of Knox. “But I’m expecting him to become a major contributor.”

Along with Knox, Basel also holds high expectations for Fackler, whom he’s coached at the varsity level for three years. Standing at 6-foot-4, Fackler was one of the Thunderbirds’ second or third scoring options last season – but he’s not settling for that over the 2014-2015 season.

“Last year he was the garbage guy – he did all the little things like rebounding. But he wasn’t our first, or even second, scoring option last year,” Basel said. “He just did his job, but, now it’s his turn to step up. I expect him to average a double-double… In a lot of ways, how he goes is how this team is going to go.”

On Monday at press time, Hills East was preparing for its annual contest with rival Half Hollow Hills High School West, which was set to tip-off on Tuesday. While the game finished after press time – and Hills East fell 60-54 – Basel expected it to be a highly contested, yet friendly matchup – one that he uses as a focal point for his team to look back on and remember the levels of intensity, in terms of play, that it brings.

“Last year we beat them, the year before they beat us in overtime – they’re always close games,” Basel said. “The level of play gets amped up… The kids know each other well and they’re good on and off the court with the intensity.”

After the showdown of the Half Hollow Hills, the Thunderbirds are now looking forward to their matchup with Lindenhurst, at home, on Friday. Hills East and the Bulldogs will tip off at 4:15 p.m. in what will be the first regular-season game of the year.

Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills
(Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014; A32)

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