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Heron, Petteway, lead Hearts over Torrington, 75-49.

POSTED February 07, 2015
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

Malik Petteway goes far above the rim for a slam on Friday night during the Sacred Heart 79-45 win over Torrington. Petteway finished with 15 points as the Hearts improve to 16-0.

TORRINGTON: It was really good to see.

A kid who despite incredible talent and all the accolades that go along with it, talking the time to sign numerous autographs and take pictures with young fans flocked to him.

Forget about the fact that he puts on a tremendous show on the court each night he steps on one, Sacred Heart junior Mustapha Heron simply gets why it’s important to give back to kids who look up to him.

“It means the world to me,” Heron said. “You know as a kid I looked up to a lot of guys in high school basketball and of course a lot of NBA guys. I take time to make sure I give kids who are looking up to me my autograph.”

Sounds like a young man who remembers another Waterbury player, Ryan Gomes, who to this day, always finds time to say hi to fans, young and old at any gym he shows up at.

The Connie Donahue Gymnasium was filled far more than usual on Friday night as three potential Division I talents came up Route 8 to take on the Torrington Raiders.

A crowd of approximately 600 saw the Hearts take care of the Raiders by a 79-45 score that could have been far, far worse.

That’s not a crack against the Raider players. Sacred Heart is simply playing on a different planet these days.

Hearts head coach Jon Carroll is living the dream right now as defending Class S State Champion with players like Heron, fellow junior Tyrn Flowers and senior Malik Petteway all on the floor at one time.

Their big, their long the can run like the wind and they are getting better every time out on the floor.

A recent two game out of conference stint showed just how good they can be with wins over New York powerhouse Christ the King in January at Springfield College (64-51) and at the Webster Bank Arena against Notre Dame of Fairfield (80-56).

What did those two games do for the defending champs?   

“It made us a lot better,” Heron said. “You know, the intensity is much different, they’re bringing a different brand of basketball and we were able to match their intensity and come away with the win.”

Torrington can take no shame away from this game, they played hard but at times, it looks like you are playing against a college team. These guys play that far over the high school bar and the basket.

Petteway and Heron make a nearly unstoppable combination of speed, power and athleticism that is hard to find and harder to beat.

What has made these players so good? Hard work, natural ability or both?

“I think it’s a lot of both,” Carroll said. “Obviously they have the god given talents that are measurable. I mean, being 6’5” or 6’6” and being very long. Malik has worked hard since he came in as a freshman to get where he is. I think Mustapha has been working on his game since he was first out of diapers.”

Carroll gets credit though, for not leaving his horses in too long, showing appreciated sportsmanship.

He remembers when teams used to run the score up on him and isn’t about to do the same to others.

To show how fast things get out of control against a team like the Hearts, the Raiders actually led in this one by a 4-3 score after a three pointer by David White.

White knotted things again the next time down the floor at six with a challenging move to the tree’s surrounding the basket.

From there though, the wave built. A pair of inside buckets from Petteway, the Hearts lone three pointer by Flowers started a 15-0 run that happened in a blink.

The visitors built a 31-12 lead after one and in the second quarter turned up the heat defensively on the Raiders and multiple highlight dunks took place in a 13-2 opening run of the second.

“I really like the way we are playing defense right now,” Carroll said. “We present a lot of match-up problems for people with our length and our size.”   

It’s very hard to teach a team not to be intimidated by a team like the Hearts until you have played them a few times.

Stephon Dailey showed some moxie with 13 points while White finished the game with nine.

Playing those out of conference games was important to the Hearts competition wise but Carroll is most impressed when he gets the players in the gym on non-game days.   

“The thing that I really like is our practice,” Carroll said. “Watching Malik and Mustapha go at it in a one on one contain drill is fun to watch. They go hard after each other. That’s been the most fun for me.”

It’s not been very much fun for teams who have to play the Hearts but its clear their biggest star is eager to share it with the future players in and around the NVL.

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