Half Hollow Hills East celebrates its win over Smithtown West in the...

Half Hollow Hills East celebrates its win over Smithtown West in the Suffolk Class AA boys basketball final on Saturday at Longwood. Credit: Bob Sorensen

Clinging onto a one-point lead with just over two minutes remaining, the Half Hollow Hills East boys basketball team needed to make championship plays down the stretch to claim the county title.

After Jordan Cador blocked a Smithtown West shot with 2:27 left, Skyler Ellis calmly rose up to nail a deep three from the top of the arc to give Hills East a four-point lead with 2:05 left.

“I practice that shot every single day, me and my dad, we go to the gym and practice that shot,” Ellis said. “So I had the confidence to shoot it, and it went in.”

Smithtown West’s Jack Melore hit a free throw to cut the deficit to one with 46.3 seconds left, and Smithtown West got the ball back with 19.6 seconds remaining. The ball swung around the perimeter, eventually leading to a Lorenzo Rappa pull-up three. Cador, who had to guard the perimeter after a switch, cleanly contested Rappa’s shot with three seconds remaining.

No. 2 Hills East, which had a defensive effort that included keeping the Bulls scoreless for 6:29 in the third quarter, got the final stop to close out a 43-40 win over top-seeded Smithtown West in the Suffolk Class AA boys basketball final Saturday at Longwood High School.

“All season, mostly recently this year, I got a foul jumping,” the 6-5 Cador said. “Staying down is a big point of my defense this year. I want to be the most reliable at all times, back in the paint, even on the perimeter if need be. Had to do what I thought was right – get there, hands up, don’t jump, don’t commit.”

Cador and Ellis each scored 10 points for Hills East (19-4), which will meet Nassau Class AA champion Elmont, which defeated South Side, 51-34 – in the Long Island championship at 3 p.m. Saturday at Farmingdale State.

Saturday marked Hills East’s first county title since 2022, and the first for Mike Marcelin as head coach.

“It’s crazy when you set goals at the beginning of the season and some get achieved, some don’t,” Marcelin said. “But you want to be one of the last teams standing at the end of the year, and it takes a lot. You go through injuries, good wins, bad losses. But you just stay determined, and we knew what our goal was.”

Michael Cascione had 13 points for Smithtown West (21-2). The Bulls’ lone regular-season loss was a five-point defeat at Hills East in a Suffolk League III game on Jan. 19, though they beat Hills East by eight on Dec. 11.

The Bulls carried a 21-20 lead into halftime after Jack Melore’s banked-in three at the second-quarter buzzer gave them the lead.

Hills East took control in the third quarter, though, turning a four-point deficit into a seven-point lead on an 11-0 run spanning 6:29. Cascione hit back-to-back threes to tie it at 39 with 3:09 remaining.

Hills East now looks to claim its first Long Island title since 2018.

“These guys are a special group of kids,” Marcelin said. “They knew what we wanted, and they’re here and we’re not done yet.”

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