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Suffolk boys: Sledge, Hills West motivated

Tavon Sledge and the Half Hollow Hills West

Tavon Sledge and the Half Hollow Hills West boys basketball team fell one spot in our rankings to No. 2. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The spotlight will once again shine on Half Hollow Hills West, the defending Suffolk Class AA champion, but not as brightly as it did last season. Tobias and Tyler Harris are gone, but exciting point guard Tavon Sledge returns to lead the Colts, strongly motivated to return to Glens Falls, where they lost in the state championship game.

There's also unfinished business at Class A Harborfields, where Matt McLeod leads a versatile, talented, veteran team that is still smarting from a last-second loss in the Long Island title game that cost the Tornadoes a trip upstate.

As one Suffolk coach said, "[Tavon] Sledge alone would make them the team to beat in Suffolk." But Half Hollow Hills West, the League IV favorite, has much more. Junior forward Emile Blackman is an emerging star and the other returning starter. Chris Cox, Chris Kaimis and Anthony Rollino were starters as sophomores.

Hills West will be challenged for class supremacy by League I front-runner Floyd, which returns its top three scorers, led by inside-out forward Anthony White, who averages 16 ppg. Experience comes from four-year varsity guard Shabazz Thompkins and forward Aaron Wigger.

Other League I challengers include Lindenhurst, with three-point expert Rob Balkam and superb slasher Stu Warren, and Longwood, led by explosive guard Paris Parks. Sachem East features one of the best long-range shooters in Suffolk, Dan Candemeres, who nailed five treys and scored 28 in a recent win over Bellport.

League II is very balanced, but Whitman might have the edge because it returns the league's best player, 6-5, 225-pound Myles Jones, who averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds last season. Sachem North returns all-league guard Nicky Gallina and Central Islip has a strong backcourt combo of Derrick Franklin and Reginald Augustus. Bay Shore is young, but quick sophomore point guard Bryson Lassiter is a player to watch.

Copiague is poised to dominate League III, led by guards P.J. Page and Devine Clinton. The Eagles have length, quickness and depth. One Suffolk coach ranked them No. 2 in the county, behind Hills West. East Islip is a smart, physical team, led by Brian Johnson and Evan Maxwell. Football star Preshod McCoy is the top returning scorer for North Babylon.

Hills West should once again win League IV, but there are a couple of other dangerous teams. Matt Sullivan is a superb shooter and one of four returning starters that will make West Babylon a factor. Bellport is young and quick, with junior Armand Correa, fresh from his LIC football exploits, leading the way. Eastport-South Manor, which moved up from Class A and into League V, features Center Moriches transfer Joe Gonzalez, an excellent inside player.

Harborfields is not only the team to beat in League V, but the consensus favorite for the Class A title. Quadruple-threat Matt McLeod leads a well-balanced starting five. Lucas Woodhouse is a solid point guard with three-point range. Joe Savaglio and Justin Ringen are deep threats. Nick Fessenden is one of the best low-post players on Long Island. Islip, led by 6-6 football bruiser Andrew Oberg, a double-double threat, and his brother Tighe, will challenge the Eagles. Sayville is off to a fast start led by guard James Rupp.

In League VI, Amityville figures to emerge on top, led by its stellar backcourt of Darien Croft and Richie Hobson. The Warriors are probably second to Harborfields, overall, in Class A, setting up a potentially intriguing county final between the coaching Agostino brothers - Chris at Harborfields and Jack at Amityville. Bayport-Blue Point, featuring Ross Drzal and Andrew Ptacek, could ruin those plans.

The last of the superb Ward-Adams brothers, Jon, graduated from Center Moriches, but their father, John Ward-Adams, is still the coach and the Red Devils are still the class of Class B and League VII. Maleek Harris has already emerged as one of the county's highest-scoring combo guards. Eliza Gonzalez is developing up front. Hampton Bays could make noise with four-year player Cameron Booth a legit scoring threat. Wyandanch features guards Dante Freeman and Alexander Williams. Mattituck, led by Tom Ascher and Cody Huntley, is a hustling, veteran team.

Realignment moves Greenport of League VIII up to Class C for the first time in school history. With high-scoring Dantre Langhorne (22 ppg) and improving Jalen Shelby, the Porters should do well, though their path to the state tournament will be more difficult. Stony Brook, led by outstanding guard Tim Pandolfi, will be a serious challenger. Southold, which won its first 18 games last season, was depleted by graduation, but Winston Wilcenski can score.

There are only three teams on Long Island in Class D - Ross, Shelter Island and Bridgehampton. Two make the playoffs.

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