At times it plodded and dragged, it wasn't always pretty and in the shadow of the Nassau and Suffolk 'AA' championship games, it was anti-climactic. But the Half Hollow Hills West Colts will take their 63-50 win over the Uniondale Knights for the Long Island 'AA' Championship, and up to Glens Falls they go.
"I won one with L.I. Lutheran, but now I'm trying to make history with this team", said Tobias Harris, whose game high 19 points, 5 blocks and 12 rebounds led Hills West. "We're trying to win it all."
The speed of Hills West PG Tavon Sledge has been a code that no team has been able to crack this season, and last week, Uniondale PG Bolade Akingboye hinted at having a solution. The Knights kept things even early on, and when Akingboye wasn't playing off of the jet quick Sledge and daring him to shoot, he was using his length and body control around the hoop for inside buckets. The long range shooting touch of Shaq Mosley and Goey Charles gave Uniondale an extra boost, and after 8 minutes, the Knights not only seemed to be a fair match for the Colts, but they were within a deuce, 16-14. However, in the process of shadowing Harris, Charles picked up two early fouls and was forced to the pine. Overall sloppiness and blown possessions for both teams prevented Uniondale from tying things up and Hills West from blowing the game open, but with none of the Colts' superstars having coming out parties up to that point, the oft overlooked Aaron McCree quietly kept the lead intact by doing what he's done all season without much fanfare.
"Tonight, Aaron and Emile (Blackman) showed what they've been doing all year", said Hills West Head Coach Bill Mitaritonna. "They're just as big a part of the team as the big three T's (Tobias and Tyler Harris and Sledge). Emile has gotten some recognition, but Aaron's gotten nothing. He was the one that kept us in it (offensively) in the first half and he helped shut down (Uniondale's) guard play." Considering the fact that Uniondale was near barren in the second quarter, the senior was instrumental in keeping things under control in what could be considered a less than stellar game for both teams after the first quarter.
"If my teammates aren't doing good, I'm there to pick them up", said McCree. "I had the open looks, so I took them." Uniondale's struggles on their offensive glass led to one and done possessions in the second quarter, and lulls from both teams left Hills West with a 31-22 advantage at the half.
Blown possessions, missed lay-ups and moments of sloppiness continued to find their way into the Colts repertoire, but Harris began to bat away Uniondale shots left and right- and it was only a matter of time before he began to exploit their defense.
"I really wanted to get my teammates involved in the first half", Harris said. "But I started to find ways to score in the second half". After a series of tough drives, blocks, put backs and free throws, Harris tallied 10 third quarter points to open up a 16 point lead for Hills West, their largest of the game (45-29).
The 5'7 Mosley managed to complete a number of freaky drives and knock down 7 of his 8 free throw attempts in the second half to keep Uniondale afloat. Akingboye chipped in to help him, and when senior forward Maurice Kearney nailed a long two pointer with 1:14 left in the game, the Knights had cut the Colts' lead to five, 55-50, and there appeared to be a glimmer of hope. But with Charles having fouled out early in the fourth and Sledge beginning to break loose in the open court, Uniondale would pull no closer. Even a leg cramp didn't keep Sledge out for long, as he returned to the game in time to join McCree and Blackman in pulling the Colts out of harm's way from the free throw line. It wasn't the blood pressure raising roller coaster ride that their game against Longwood for the Suffolk County title was, but Hills West will take it.
"We knew Uniondale would be extremely physical inside and slow the game down", said Coach Mitaritonna. "That's their game, and we only scored 63 points, which is the lowest we've scored this year. But we also missed a lot of chip shots, and that contributed to the game being what it was as well."
Tavon Sledge added 19 points and 10 assists for Half Hollow Hills West. Aaron McCree chipped in with 13 points. Uniondale were led by Shaq Mosley's 17 points, 3 assists and 5 rebounds and Bolade Akingboye's 16 points, 14 rebounds and 5 assists. Half Hollow Hills West will advance to Glens Falls next week in their quest to win it all.
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