Tavon Sledge of Half Hollow Hills West High School (yellow...

Tavon Sledge of Half Hollow Hills West High School (yellow shirt) drives to the basket during the Escalade High School Classic. (May 22, 2010) Credit: James A. Escher

The crowd wanted offense. Screamed for it, cheered for it and hungered for it. And though the all-star high school players on the court at Half Hollow Hills East were happy to oblige, Tavon Sledge was the master chef.

The Half Hollow Hills West junior scored 49 points in a 135-131 win for the yellow team in the first Escalade High School Classic and Celebrity Basketball Game yesterday.

"I like to play in front of big crowds with a lot of people," Sledge said. "I like to put on a show for them and show them why I'm one of the top basketball players around this area and around the nation."

In addition to helping his team to victory, Sledge was the visual highlight. His dunks were human-sized exclamation points, and after a steal found him all alone at the top of the key, he alley-ooped his own shot to a roar of approval from the crowd.

But tricks aside, Sledge said winning the game was the mission of the night.

"I'm a competitor. I couldn't care less about scoring points," he said. "I always want to win regardless of what type of game it is, who I'm playing against or who's on the other team. I always play to go out there and win like it's my last game."

The event was produced by Troy "Escalade" Jackson, a streetballer on the AND1 mixtape tour, former Harlem Globetrotter and brother of former NBA star point guard Mark Jackson. Sledge said that although the win was the thing, the thought of impressing the streetball star certainly crossed his mind.

"Escalade's a big friend of mine,'' he said, "and I want to show him that I can play just as fun as they play.''

Jackson was a former star at Half Hollow Hills East and held the district scoring record until Sledge's teammate, Tobias Harris, passed him. Jackson, uncle of Half Hollow Hills West's Emile Blackman, attended many of the Colts' games this season as the team made it to the state public school Class AA championship game.

"Watching Tobias and my nephew and Tavon make a run in a place that's not really expected to make those runs, it was special,'' said Jackson, who truly ran the event, doing even the little things such as making change and fetching hot dogs for the concession stands. "During the year I see a ton of basketball with what I do for a living, and I thought they were one of the 15 or 20 best teams in the country."

Blackman scored eight points after arriving two minutes into the second half. He managed a few shots that made his uncle smile, including a dunk with three seconds remaining to seal the win.

"They always tell me that I'm the most athletic one in the family,'' Blackman said, "so I wanted to show it."

But despite the praise, there also was the expected trash- talking between family members before the game.

"I told him, 'Mark's an NBA Hall of Famer with 17 years playing; I don't mind,' " Jackson said. "Him, I refuse to be the third-best basketball player in this family. When that happens, it's time to hang it up. I told him if he scores more than me today, I'll retire. I'll go get a regular job Monday morning."

Given that no individual stats were kept for the celebrity game, "Escalade" still should have some miles left in his basketball career.

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