Nick Fessenden, Matt McLeod and Matt Curry are not the household names on Long Island that Tobias Harris, Tyler Harris and Tavon Sledge are. But that could change in the next few weeks.
Suffolk Class A champion Harborfields showed the kind of damage it's capable of doing in the upcoming state tournament, pushing nationally ranked Class AA champion Half Hollow Hills West before falling, 68-63, in yesterday's Suffolk overall championship game at Farmingdale State.
Harborfields led 50-45 early in the fourth quarter, but Tyler Harris scored eight points and Sledge six in an 18-2 run that put Hills West ahead 63-52. Harborfields responded with a 10-2 run, moving within 65-62 with 38 seconds left when Lucas Woodhouse (10 points for the game) hit his second consecutive three-pointer.
But Tyler Harris made two free throws and Hills West held on.
"They surprised me,'' said Sledge, the Colts' highlight-reel point guard, who finished with 34 points and 11 assists. "I didn't think they were this good. I'd never seen them before, but they're really good. They challenged us a lot.''
The season will continue for both teams Saturday at Hofstra. Harborfields (21-2) will face Westbury in the Long Island Class A championship game at 1 p.m. Hills West (23-0) will play Uniondale at 4 p.m. for the Long Island Class AA championship.
This was a great tuneup for both teams. Harborfields proved it can hang with one of the country's best teams and Hills West proved it can win without its star. Tobias Harris, averaging 25 points per game, missed the game with a toe injury suffered late in Tuesday's victory over Longwood.
"We always knew that we could win without him,'' said Tyler Harris, Tobias' younger brother, who scored 10 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter. "When he's with us, it makes us more unstoppable, but as a team, we're all the greatest. Without him there's a piece missing, but we still can win.''
Emile Blackman helped pick up the slack with 14 points.
After one quarter, it was shaping up to be a blowout. Sledge put on a passing and dunking clinic and the Colts raced to a 22-8 lead. It became 28-12 before Harborfields ended the first half on a 20-2 run and took a 32-30 lead into the break. Curry scored eight of his 12 points in that span for the Tornadoes.
"This week we had the two best practices of our season,'' said Fessenden, who scored 17 points. "We wanted to shock the world. We came close.''
A back-and-forth third quarter ended with Harborfields ahead 48-45 after McLeod (18 points) stole an inbounds pass and hit a buzzer-beating layup.
McLeod opened the fourth quarter with a layup off a nice feed from Patrick Ryan to give Harborfields its largest lead of the night at 50-45 before Hills West went on its game-deciding run.
Said Hills West coach Bill Mitaritonna: "They're awesome. They're gonna do really well in the state tournament. [Coach] Chris Agostino does a great job with them. They have some great players and we were lucky enough to win.''
The respect was mutual.
Said Fessenden: "It really boosts our confidence. If we can play with them, I think we can play with anyone on the Island.''