Boys basketball: Not an easy road to Class S title for Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart's boys basketball players celebrate their Class S championship Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Mara Lavitt - Register

Sacred Heart’s boys basketball players celebrate their Class S championship Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Mara Lavitt – Register

Sacred Heart's Malik Petteway contests a shot by Valley Regional's Hunter Linfesty during the Class S boys basketball Championship at Mohegan Sun. (Mara Lavitt - New Haven Register)

Sacred Heart’s Malik Petteway contests a shot by Valley Regional’s Hunter Linfesty during the Class S boys basketball Championship at Mohegan Sun. (Mara Lavitt – New Haven Register)

Sacred Heart may have been the favorite to win the Class S state championship, but it wasn’t easy.

A pair of Shoreline Conference schools gave the Hearts their toughest games. East Hampton only lost by two, 64-62 in the quarterfinals. Then Valley Regional gave Sacred Heart all it could handle in the final on Sunday before falling 65-56.

“Even under perfect circumstances, things don’t always work out,” Sacred Heart coach Jon Carroll said. “The preparation and the effort going into scouting and preparing for teams and so on, it’s difficult. It’s not easy.”

Carroll said he noticed at one point that Valley’s Chris Jean-Pierre and David Bradbury had outscored the entire Sacred Heart team 25-19. So when the man-to-man and 1-3-1 defenses didn’t work, Sacred Heart went to the 3-2 zone and the triangle-and-two on Jean-Pierre and Bradbury.

“We used four different defenses against Valley to keep them off balance,” Carroll said. “We were able to focus on those two and have somebody else beat us.”

Malik Petteway finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds for the Hearts, who won their first state title since 2009.

In 2010, Sacred Heart petitioned to move up from L to the LL division. The Hearts lost to eventual champion Bridgeport Central in the semifinals.

Sacred Heart will likely be in Class S again next year. The format the CIAC uses is based on enrollment and playoff success over a two- or three-year period. Sacred Heart failed to make the state tournament the previous three seasons.

Teams can petition to play in Class LL, but not the other three divisions. There were no seniors in Sacred Heart’s starting lineup on Sunday. With everyone expected back, minus potential transfers, the Hearts may declare for LL again.

Carroll, also the school’s athletic director, said the decision doesn’t have to be made until October.

“I can’t make the decision single-handedly as coach and athletic director,” Carroll said. “The school president and principal will be involved. In terms of competition, the LL tournament is like a mine field. It’s using the jump up as motivation to my players, versus we are an S school with 180 boys. That really is the point-counterpoint to it. A jump that enormous is not an easy decision.”

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