Hills West's Tavon Sledge (3) with the layup off a...

Hills West's Tavon Sledge (3) with the layup off a fast break in the first half. (Jan. 13, 2011) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

It took a new wrinkle to iron things out for the Half Hollow Hills West offense.

After a two-game losing streak that was marked by poor shot selection and, according to coaches and players, "too many people standing around watching Sledge," the Colts sported a different look for last night's game against Bellport.

Tavon Sledge moved from point guard to shooting guard and Anthony Rollino took over the point. The experiment worked so well, it'll be the Hills West modus operandi for the rest of the season.

Rollino contributed 11 assists and Sledge, a senior, matched his career high with 35 points as the host Colts raced past the Clippers, 77-57, in a Suffolk League IV game. "We made the switch based on the Molloy and West Babylon games [both losses]," coach Bill Mitaritonna said. "Tavon had to carry the whole load - guard the other team's point guard, score and pass. It was too much."

Wherever he plays, Sledge usually is too much for opponents to handle. But Thursday night, the results justified Mitaritonna's maneuver, which paid dividends immediately. Sledge scored 18 points in the first quarter, allowing Hills West (4-2, 3-1) to build a 28-10 advantage that was never threatened.

Rollino flourished in his new role, which really isn't new at all. "I was a point guard all my life until Tay arrived last year," said the senior, who started for Hills West as a sophomore but was a sub last season when the Colts won the Suffolk and Long Island Class AA titles before losing in the state final. "I definitely feel comfortable at point guard. The offense ran smoother and there wasn't a lot of standing around."

That's because Rollino and Sledge led a ball-pressure defense that produced a lot of easy fast-break baskets. Many of Sledge's points came on layups in transition.

"It felt a little different not having the ball in my hands all the time," acknowledged the 5-8 Sledge, who will play for Iowa State next season. "But that allowed me to save my legs and do a lot more things. A lot of guards my size won't go down and rebound. But I like every part of the game."

Sledge added seven steals and six rebounds to his stat line. Chris Cox benefited as well, scoring 12 points. William Edwards had 12 and Armand Correa 11 for Bellport (4-5, 2-2).

"With Anthony guarding the other team's point guard, Tavon could take more chances," Mitaritonna said of Sledge's quick hands and nose for the ball.

Of Rollino's 11-assist, five-point, four-steal game, Mitaritonna beamed and said, "That's beautiful!''

He added, "I'll stick with this. It looked like the offense really flowed."

More High Schools