GLENS FALLS, N.Y. - He was the only Hills West star player still on the court at the final buzzer, and a stunned Tavon Sledge appeared as if he were lost in a strange land.
The 5-9 junior point guard wandered alone near the center of the floor at the Glens Falls Civic Center for a few seconds, looking toward the ceiling as the rest of his teammates gathered at their bench.
Despite Sledge's 33 points, nationally ranked Hills West had just taken its first on-court loss of the season, falling to Albany Christian Brothers Academy, 71-53, Sunday in the state Class AA championship game. If Sledge looked confused, he could be forgiven.
Hills West coach Bill Mitaritonna walked across the court and nudged Sledge to come over to the other side. "He's banged up right now," Mitaritonna later said of Sledge, who scored 25 points in the second half. "He's got bad calves and a bad knee. He's playing on fumes, and I don't know how he did it."
The "it" was self-explanatory. Sledge became a one-man offense as Tobias and Tyler Harris got into early foul trouble and eventually fouled out (Tobias with 1:10 left in the third quarter and Tyler with 5:48 left in the fourth). At times, Sledge was the only antidote to the Colts' offensive struggles.
Sledge scored eight first-half points for Hills West (24-2), which trailed 27-19 at halftime. He had all 10 of the Colts' third-quarter points and added 15 in the fourth.
The speedy Sledge often took an inbound pass or forced a steal, then used his trademark quickness to outrun the defense for a fast-break layup. He scored all of the third-quarter points that way. That bypassed Christian Brothers' half-court zone scheme, which otherwise slowed the Colts' preferred up-tempo pace. CBA sent double- and triple-teams at Tobias Harris (eight points) and held Tyler Harris scoreless.
"Sledge is so fast," Christian Brothers coach Dave Doemel said. "At halftime, the only thing I told our guys is, 'You're playing your butts off, but you're not running down the middle of the floor to prevent the fast breaks. We're scoring and Sledge is beating you down the floor.' "
Hills West shot 19-for-55 (34.5 percent) from the field and 3-for-19 from three-point range. Sledge had 13 field goals, including all of the three-pointers.
"I just wanted to keep playing and do the best I could," he said. "But there came a time when we just were too far behind and couldn't do anything else."
Except watch Sledge.