UNCASVILLE >> The Valley Regional boys basketball team was closing in on its third state championship in four seasons Sunday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
The Warriors led heavily favored Sacred Heart-Waterbury, the No. 4 team in the state, 56-55, and had possession of the ball with two minutes and 35 seconds left to play.
But it was all Hearts the rest of the way.
Junior guard Malik Petteway stole the ball, raced to the basket from midcourt and unleashed a thunderous dunk. Petteway’s play sparked a 10-0 run as Sacred Heart captured the Class S state championship with a 65-56 victory.
It was the Hearts’ sixth state title and first since winning the Class M crown in 2009.
“Valley Regional really gave us everything that we could handle,” Sacred Heart coach Jonathan Carroll said.
“Offensively, we weren’t at our best. We missed some layups and some chippies. Your shot is not always on but you can always play defense and that’s what we told the guys. Keep hustling, keep working and keep grinding and good things would happen and it did.”
Petteway posted a double-double with 17 points and 17 rebounds. Junior guard Isaiah Roscoe scored 15 points, sophomore guard Mustapha Heron added 14 points and seven rebounds, while sophomore Tryn Flowers had 11 points for No. 3 Sacred Heart (24-3).
“For all the accolades that Mustapha and Mailk get, this really was a team win,” added Carroll.
Junior guard Chris Jean-Pierre had a game-high 20 points with nine rebounds for the defending Class M champion Warriors (20-7).
“No one thought we could play with them,” Jean-Pierre said. “Everyone thought it was going to be a blowout. We played with great energy. The game plan was mostly to box out their big men and I thought we did a god job with that. We tried our best but we came up short.”
Valley junior guard David Bradbury (14 points) drained three 3-pointers early in the first quarter to give the Warriors an early 15-6 lead.
The Hearts responded with a 9-0 run and it was tied at 15 after one.
The eighth-seeded Warriors stayed hot as Bradbury and Jean-Pierre buried corner treys early in in the second quarter. Senior Jake Luster also sank a 3-pointer and when junior Hunter Linfesty (nine points) beat the halftime buzzer with a baseline jumper, Valley led 35-29.
“We joke about the home court advantage but we love playing here,” said Valley Regional coach Kevin Woods, who also guided the Warriors to a Class S title in 2011. “We were fired up (at halftime) but we knew what was ahead. We knew there was going to be a tougher 16 coming back. We had to put 32 grueling minutes in to be there, let alone win the game.”
Valley shot 12 for 26 (46.2 percent) from the field in the first half. But the Hearts limited the Warriors to shooting just 5 for 18 in the second half.
“Defense was everything,” Rascoe said. “We couldn’t let them shoot three’s. We had to limit their penetration, rebound and get quick outlets. That’s how we won the game.”
Sacred Heart finally took its first lead since early in the first quarter when Heron converted a fastbreak layup and Vince Lombardi (four points) swished a pull-up jumper for a 46-44 lead after three quarters.
Senior forward Peter Barry’s 3-pointer and a pair of free throws from Jean-Pierre gave the Warriors a 55-52 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
But the Hearts finished with a 13-1 run, capped by a steal and breakaway dunk from Heron with 22 seconds remaining.
“In the fourth quarter we stuck with the game plan and made some smart decisions with the ball,” said Heron. “It feels great.”
“I’m proud of my guys,” said Woods. “Down the stretch what it came down to was them making a couple of plays and we did run out of a little gas there. I think we’re a championship caliber team too. Any other opponent tonight and I don’t think we lose.”
SACRED HEART 65, VALLEY REGIONAL 56
Valley Regional 15 20 9 12 – 56
Sacred Heart 15 14 17 19 – 65
VALLEY REGIONAL (56)
David Bradbury Jr. 5 0-0 14, Jake Luster 1 0-0 3, Peter Barry 1 2-2 5, Christopher Jean-Pierre 6 7-8 20, Hunter Linfesty 2 5-5 9, Brennan Joy 0 0-0 0, Nash Eppard 2 1-1 5. Totals: 17 15-16 56
SACRED HEART HIGH (65)
Malik Petteway 6 4-7 17, Mustapha Heron 3 8-13 14, Charles Fisher 2 0-0 4, Tyrn Flowers 4 2-3 11, Isiah Rascoe 5 5-5 15, Vincent Lombardi 2 0-0 4. Totals: 22 19-28 65
3-point goals: Valley Regional 7 (Bradbury Jr. 4, Luster 1, Barry 1, Jean-Pierre 1); Sacred Heart High 2 (Petteway 1, Flowers 1); Fouled out: Valley Regional (Barry.); Records: Valley Regional 20-7; Sacred Heart High 24-3