UNCASVILLE — What Sunday’s CIAC Class S boys basketball final proved is that, in the winter of 2014-15, Sacred Heart existed on another level.
And of all the Hearts, it’s Mustapha Heron who occupies his own particular strata in the Connecticut schoolboy stratosphere.
The junior from Meriden scored a game-high 31 points to lead the Waterbury school to its second straight Class S state title, again over Valley Regional, 71-46, in the last of this weekend’s eight state finals at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The victory, never really in doubt after Sacred Heart blew open a 4-4 game with 14 unanswered points, capped a flawless 28-0 run for the NVL champion Hearts.
“This means everything to us to be 28-0,” Heron said. “We are going back into the locker room and celebrate and get better and come back next year.”
Pardon the overused expression, but in this case it applies: Heron put on a show.
He scored in every way imaginable, be it pulling up from the outside, mixing it up inside, driving to the rim or playing above it. The 6-foot-6 guard had four dunks.
He also defended, directed and rebounded. Looking on was Jamie Dixon, the coach at the University of Pittsburgh, the school to which Heron has verbally committed.
In the meantime, Heron is already looking ahead to his last year of high school, which will be back at Sacred Heart. There has been speculation about him leaving the Waterbury school, but that is not the case.
“I’m going for the three-peat,” Heron said.
Heron also said the team answered any questions about which boys basketball squad is the best in the state.
“People ask us about being in Class S,” Heron said. “I tell them every team that played in the championship this weekend except for [Class LL runnerup] Westhill we have beaten them all by 10 points in the preseason or regular season. It really doesn’t matter. I let it go in one ear and out the other. We just play our game and win games.”
The Hearts did just that on Sunday. By the end of the first quarter, they were in charge. Heron had eight points in the decisive 14-0 run.
Malik Petteway, who would finish with 22 points, capped Sacred Heart’s dominant first quarter by taking an inbounds pass under the bucket and throwing down a one-hand slam. Advantage champs, 20-7.
Valley, which had rallied from 20 points down in the fourth quarter in the semifinals to reach the championship stage for the fourth time in five years, wasn’t about to wilt. Fueled by guards David Bradbury Jr. and Chris Jean-Pierre, the Warriors made a few surges in the second quarter.
But there was too much Sacred Heart height out there, too much speed.
And Heron was in the middle of it. He rifled a pass to Tyrn Flowers, who completed a three-point play, then skied for a fast-break dunk that had the Hearts up 27-10.
More impressive was the put-back minutes later, when Heron followed up not one, but two misses underneath. Sacred Heart led 31-12.
Valley, getting the Hearts in some foul trouble, whittled the gap down to 11, but Heron closed the half banking home a pull-up for a 34-21 halftime lead.
By the break, Heron had 15 points and the Hearts were shooting 51 percent. Valley, 19 percent from the floor, was holding on at the line (11-for-17).
Just in case the basic themes of the night were unclear, Heron opened the half by:
A) Driving for 2 on the first possession;
B) Dunking on the break;
C) Tomahawking an alley-oop from Petteway.
Again, Valley never stopped battling. But nor did the Warriors ever get closer than 14. The Hearts took a 50-32 lead into the final eight minutes.
For good measure, Heron opened the quarter by driving the lane, dunking for the fourth time, drawing the foul and completing the 3-point play.
Bunnell 72, Naugatuck 61: The No. 5 Bulldogs had a monster fourth quarter to pull away and claim their first state crown in program history.
No. 7 Naugatuck, playing in its first boys hoop final since 1974 and looking for its first state crown in the sports since 1942, started out hot with a 18-13 lead after the first quarter.
The SWC squad from Stratford countered with a 13-6 second quarter and took a 26-24 advantage into the half. By the end of the third quarter, Bunnell led 44-39.
For the game, the Bulldogs (24-4) out-ran the Greyhounds (20-6) with 30 fast-break points to Naugatuck’s eight.
Aaron Samuel led the charge for the Bulldogs with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists. He was 9-for-13 from the field.
Donte’ Peeler (17 points, 8 rebounds) and Ryan Pittman (12 points, 8 assists) also came up big on the Mohegan Sun hardwood for the newly minted Class L champs.
Jarron Chapman was the man for Naugatuck. The senior poured in a game-high 29 points and grabbed a team-high seven boards.
Charles Wall added 10 points and Dayvon Russell chipped in with nine for the NVL school.
Record-Journal sportswriter Sean Krofssik contributed to this story