Thunderbirds Coming Together At Season’s Midpoint

DIX HILLS, New York, Jan. 22

BY: Andrew Wroblewski

Mesha Rivers, a captain for Hills East, brings the ball up the court at Connetquot High School on Jan. 15.
Mesha Rivers, a captain for Hills East, brings the ball up the court at Connetquot High School on Jan. 15.

In the game of basketball, a team’s depth may very well determine how far it will go in a season. For the Half Hollow Hills East girls basketball team, the Thunderbirds’ depth is starting to contribute at just the right time, Head Coach Adam Cirnigliaro said.

“We’re starting to get contributions from a lot of girls now,” he said. “Jessie Maurer, a freshman, had 19 points and hit 5 threes [against Connetquot]… Alexa Wallace, another freshman, had 12 points against Lindenhurst; the more girls that can score, the better.”

Against Connetquot (3-5), which the Thunderbirds traveled to on Jan. 15, Hills East (5-3) started out a bit slow as it fell behind 16-9 in the first quarter – in part due to Kristen McKenzie, the Thunderbirds’ leading scorer at 16 points per game, getting off to a slow start. While McKenzie eventually worked her way to a double-double on 11 points and 10 rebounds, the Thunderbirds were led by Maurer, who had her best performance of the season, and Hills East won 57-41. Similarly, against Lindenhurst (1-7) on Jan. 17, Wallace stepped up with her second-best scoring performance of the season in a 51-40 Hills East victory.

“We’re feeling better now with where we’re at,” Cirnigliaro, in his first year as head coach, said. “When we lost to Smithtown East [60-59 on Jan. 6] it was heartbreaking. Then we were back-and-forth in the Whitman game [which Hills East lost 31-28 on Jan. 9]. We’re a couple of possessions away from 6-1, but it was good for us to get back on track this week.”

With the three wins last week – Hills East also defeated Central Islip (2-5) on Jan. 13, 47-28 – the Thunderbirds were seated in third place of Suffolk County’s League II as of press time Monday with another “big week” ahead of the team, Cirnigliaro said.

The week started with a trip to Bay Shore (1-6) on Tuesday, a team Hills East defeated on Dec. 16, 60-46.

“Running our zone offense better is something we’ve been focusing on,” the coach said. “Getting contributions from girls like Jessie will be huge, too.”

Now the Thunderbirds prepare for a crosstown rivalry match tonight when they’ll host division-leading Northport (8-0). The first time these two teams met, Northport emerged with a 45-35 victory, but the Thunderbirds have worked their game plan, Cirnigliaro said, and are hoping for a better result this time around.

“We have to close out on their shooters better than we did last time,” he said.

Tip-off is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. at High School East.

Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills
(Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015;  A27)

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