All three Long Island teams acquitted themselves well in last weekend’s state tournament, even though only one brought back a championship. As legendary UCLA coach John Wooden used to say, quoting an ancient poet, “The journey is better than the end.”
Friends Academy, of course, enjoyed the journey AND the end, winning the Class C championship for the first time in school history. The Quakers won a pair of tight games with precision and patience, and some very timely outside shots by Tommy Costa. Nice moment, too, for coach Steve Hefele and his son, starting point guard, T.J. Hefele, who totaled 24 points and had six assists in the title game.
Harborfields made the most of the school’s first-ever visit to Glens Falls. The Tornadoes showed resourcefulness by winning a semifinal game in which they did not shoot well. And while they ultimately couldn’t handle the size and skill of Jamesville-Dewitt in the Class A final, the Tornadoes showed grit by cutting a 26-point first-half deficit to 13 in the fourth quarter before the four-time state champs pulled away. “We’ll be back next year,” coach Chris Agostino promised, and with two starters back – point guard Lucas Woodhouse and forward Justin Ringen – it’s quite possible.
Half Hollow Hills West overcame a 10-point first-half deficit to battle eventual Class AA champion Mount Vernon down to the wire in an exciting semifinal game that featured a duel of perhaps the two best point guards in the state. The Colts’ Tavon Sledge was the most exciting player in the tournament. After one of his dazzling, high-speed, coast-to-coast drives, a veteran member of the tournament committee sitting at courtside just shook his head and said, “I’ve never seen anybody that quick.” Sledge outscored Mount Vernon’s Jabarie Hinds, 18-10, and also contributed 10 assists and six rebounds.
The Colts had a dual mission at Glens Falls. Of course, they wanted to win a championship. But they also acknowledged they wanted to repair their image after some unfortunate behavior by a couple of players at the end of last year’s final that incurred the wrath of fans and drew criticism from some upstate writers.
Coach Bill Mitaritonna made that a point of emphasis and his team responded well.
“Last year, the way the game ended, that wasn't us at all," Sledge said. “Even though we lost this year and we like to win, I feel like we won ultimately. A lot of young kids look up to me and this shows them a lot. We showed everyone we were one of the classiest teams up here.”