UNCASVILLE >> Perfection.
The Sacred Heart boys basketball team capped a remarkable undefeated season by capturing its second straight Class S title with a 71-46 victory over Valley Regional in front of 9,059 on Sunday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
The top-seeded Hearts (28-0), who were ranked No. 1in the Register/GameTimeCT preseason poll and remained there the entire season, extended its state best 32-game winning streak en route to the Waterbury school’s seventh state title.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Sacred Heart coach Jon Carroll said. “You kind of understand that the kids have the potential to do it so hopefully they listen and everyone stays heathy. There are so many variables in it. They executed and they have great team chemistry. I’m just really proud of them.”
The outstanding duo of 6-6 junior guard Mustapha Heron and 6-7 senior forward Malik Petteway proved to be too much for the sixth-seeded Warriors.
Pittsburgh-bound Heron – Panthers coach Jamie Dixon was in attendance – poured in a game-high 32 points, while Petteway posted a double-double with 22 points and 18 rebounds.
“If we had a chance to win that game we had to be perfect and they’re the type of team that’s going to make sure that you’re not perfect,’ Valley Regional Kevin Woods said. “It took an adjustment period because you’re going up against Division I athletes and we don’t get to see that on a regular basis.”
Shoreline Conference champion Valley (22-6), which was vying for its third state title in five seasons, had a halftime lead against the Hearts in last year’s championship game. But the rematch proved to be a different story.
Petteway, who made10 of 13 field goals, set the tone in the first quarter by making all six of his shots to fuel a 16-0 spurt as Scared Heart grabbed a 20-7 lead.
The Hearts suffocating man-to-man defense, which was spearheaded by junior guard Charles Fisher and Heron, made life miserable for the Warriors. Valley shot just 4-for-21 (19 percent) from the field in the first half.
“I think Charles Fisher is probably the best on the ball defender in the state,” Carroll said. “You don’t see stats for that but that’s kind of the guy who disrupts what they want to do offensively and it’s invaluable for us.”
The Warriors, however, trailed just 34-21 at halftime.
“We knew we still had a chance,” Valley Regional senior guard Chris Jean-Pierre said. “We talked about starting a run right out of the half and closing the gap down and they got two easy layups. We didn’t hang our heads when we were down. We just kept trying to fight back but it was a little too late.”
Heron opened the second half with a patented driving layup, then threw down a monstrous dunk off a Valley turnover.
Jean-Pierre, who led the Warriors with 17 points and three assists, answered with a 3-pointer to make it 38-24 but that’s as close as Valley could get.
Petteway swished a 15-foot jumper and Heron converted an alley-oop dunk off a great feed from Fisher. Petteway added a conventional three-point play late in the third for a 50-31 advantage.
A 6-0 spurt early in the fourth, highlighted by another Heron dunk, gave Sacred Heart a 57-32 lead with 5:43 left.
“28-0 is huge…it means everything,” Heron said. “We’re going to go back into the locker room and celebrate. The guys are going into the offseason and get better because we’re coming back next year.”
Junior forward Nash Eppard had 12 points and nine rebounds, while David Bradbury chipped in eight points for Valley Regional.
“We had some really good moments but they’re strengths broke down our strengths,” Woods said. “People can say what they want about (Sacred Heart) but they’re definitely the best team in the state. Credit to them and Jon for a great season. They beat a great team in us.”
Sacred Heart shot 52.7 percent (29 of 55) and out-rebounded the Warriors, 46-25. Fisher finished with eight points and junior Tyrn Flowers had eight rebounds and four assists for the Hearts.
“Every night we came out and plenty of times we had a target on our back,” Carroll added. “We know we’re going to get everybody’s best effort and we had to reciprocate that. We’ve been able to do that and fortunately we are where we are.”
Valley Regional 7 14 11 14 – 46
Sacred Heart 20 14 16 21 – 71
VALLEY REGIONAL (46)
David Bradbury 3 1-2 8, Evan Smith 0 0-0 0, Chris Jean-Pierre 4 6-11 17, Nash Eppard 4 4-5 12, Hunter Linfesty 0 1-2 1, Brennan Joy 0 2-2 2, Phil Dee 2 0-0 6. Totals: 13 14-22 46
SACRED HEART (71)
Maliek Petteway 10 2-3 22, Mustapha Heron 12 8-10 32, Charles Fisher 3 2-3 8, Tyran Flowers 1 1-1 3, Isaiah Roscoe 0 0-0 0, JT Riddick 2 0-0 4, Raheem Solomon 1 0-0 2. Totals: 29 13-17 71
3-point goals: Valley Regional 6 (Bradbury 1, Jean-Pierre 3, Dee 2); Records: Valley Regional 22-6; Sacred Heart 28-0
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