The Hills West players didn't celebrate wildly after their 63-50 Long Island Class AA championship victory over Uniondale last Saturday. Not because they weren't delighted, but because Glens Falls had been their destination since the first day of practice. "We had a bigger goal in mind" is how Tavon Sledge put it.
The No. 1-ranked boys basketball team in the state is passionate about its pursuit of a state title. "When we get on the bus, we'll be excited," coach Bill Mitaritonna said.
Mitaritonna said Hills West's semifinal opponent, Rochester Catholic League champion East High, reminds him of Longwood, the Colts' foe in the Suffolk title game March 3. "Their guards are quick and they're good shooters," Mitaritonna said. "It's good that we played a team like Longwood. We'll be ready for their style."
Rochester East features a Sledge-like point guard in Brandon Caruthers, who averages 17.2 points, 7.0 assists and 6.8 steals. Sledge (17.8, 10.4, 3.1) has been able to control the tempo for Hills West, even when Uniondale held the Colts to their lowest point total of the season. "They don't score a lot, so we have to push it in transition and play our tempo," Mitaritonna said.
East has some firepower, however, with five starters in double figures, led by David Brannon (18.7 points, 9.3 rebounds). The 6-2 Brannon, however, is East's tallest starter. That might create problems for the Orientals because Hills West has a mobile and potent front line of 6-9 Tobias Harris (24.7 points, 14.4 rebounds), 6-8 Tyler Harris (14.7 points) and 6-3 Emile Blackman (9.6 points).