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Harris, Sledge lead Hills West to first LI title

Half Hallows Hills West Colts forward Tobias Harris

Half Hallows Hills West Colts forward Tobias Harris (12) drives to the basket during the second half of the New York State South East Regional Class AA Final against the Uniondale Knights. (March 13, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday/Christopher Pasatieri

What's that old expression, "They did everything but drive the bus?'' In the cases of Tobias Harris and Tavon Sledge Saturday, their performances handed the keys to the Half Hollow Hills West boys basketball team. For the first time in school history, they can say, "Glens Falls, here we come."

Harris scored 19 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked seven shots. He dominated the third quarter. Sledge, despite a scary-looking tumble late in the game, also scored 19 points, had seven assists - many of the dazzling variety - and took control in the fourth.

The tandem led the Colts (22-1) to a 63-50 victory over Uniondale (17-4) in the Long Island Class AA championship/Southeast Regional final before a crowd of about 5,000 at Hofstra's Mack Sports Complex.

"This feels great," said Harris, who was a defensive force, altering many more shots than he blocked. "I wanted these guys to witness what Glens Falls was like." He should know, having led L.I. Lutheran to the state Federation title last season before transferring back to his hometown high school.

Sledge, a junior transfer from St. Benedict's of Newark, said he is "very excited" to get the Colts to the state final four in his first season at the school. "We didn't celebrate that much,'' he said, "because our goal since the first day of practice was to get upstate, play the best teams and handle our business."

Thanks to Harris, Sledge and guard Aaron McCree (13 points, solid defense), the next order of business for Hills West is a semifinal game at 2:15 p.m. Saturday at Glens Falls Civic Center.

In the third quarter, Harris had five blocks and scored 10 straight points as the Colts built a 45-29 lead. "Our defense played great,'' he said. "When we get blocks, we get those fast-break layups."

That, of course, is the specialty of Sledge, the 5-8 dynamo who had two crowd-pleasing dunks. Even though he struggled at times to contain Uniondale's 5-7 whippet, Shaq Mosley (17 points), Sledge came up huge in what turned out to be an eventful final period.

That's when he made a one-handed dunk and a soaring one-handed tip-in. That's also when he made an electrifying hesitation move, blowing past the defense for a layup, then proceeding to silence the arena as he writhed on the court in agony upon landing.

He limped off the court with 2:38 left and Hills West leading 55-44. It was only a cramp, but it put a crimp in the Colts' offense while the training staff worked on his left leg. "When I went up in the air, I felt it stiffen. By the time I landed, it cramped up," the high-flying Sledge said.

The Knights then scored six straight points, including a long trey by Mosley, to make it 55-50. Mosley also drew Harris' fourth foul on a quick drive. Enter Sledge; exit Uniondale.

Though limping slightly, Sledge had enough burst to draw two fouls, hit four free throws and make a leaping rebound. Hills West scored the last eight points, all on free throws. The Colts hit 21 of 23; the Knights, who got 16 points from Bolade Akingboye, were 8-for-10.

"Tobias told me at halftime, 'I'll take over the game.' Then he started blocking shots all over the place," Hills West coach Bill Mitaritonna said. "Sledge has been Mr. Fourth Quarter all year long. He did a great job by pulling it back out three straight times to run some clock. That's a smart point guard."

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