WATERBURY >> Every game it’s the same routine for Sacred Heart phenom Mustapha Heron soon after the final buzzer sounds.
Posing for pictures and taking time to give autographs for kids and adults alike is commonplace after both home and road games. For the best player on the state’s No. 1 team, he’s more than happy to accommodate everyone.
Of course, it’s been the same outcome 40 straight time for the Hearts, who pasted No. 8 Crosby 96-61 before another sellout crowd of 800 at Alumni Hall.
“You can’t overlook anyone, especially us being who we are. Everybody plays their hardest against us, so we can’t overlook anybody,” said Heron, who has signed to play at Auburn University next season.
Heron delighted the crowd with 26 points. And it’s far from a one-man show as Tyrn Flowers, a 6-foot-8 wing man who committed to UMass earlier this week, had 26 points and point guard Charles Fisher had 15 points and nine assists.
“We are big, we’re athletic, we’re strong, we run, we have a lot of athletes on the team, guys who know how to play and we use that to our advantage,” Heron said. “We try not to slow down too much.”
Sacred Heart’s closest game this year was a 30-point win at Watertown. The Hearts are currently ranked 17th in the nation.
“You have to have your A game. You can’t have good game against them. You need an exceptional game to beat them,” Crosby coach Nick Augelli said.
But if anyone has been able to keep it close during Sacred Heart’s winning streak, it’s been Crosby.
The Bulldogs led late in one of the regular-season games last year before falling, then were on the opposite end of Heron’s basket to decide the Naugatuck Valley League tournament championship.
And the last team to beat Sacred Heart? It was Crosby in the 2014 NVL tournament final.
“They have been able to focus and execute in big venues in front of large crowds,” Sacred Heart coach Jon Carroll said. “I think last year’s NVL championship against these guys was a perfect example. We didn’t have our A game, it was a grind, but they were confident enough in each other to be able to pull it out.”
And despite falling behind 12-0 Friday evening, the Bulldogs were able to hang in. They trailed 24-12 after one quarter forced the Hearts’ second timeout of the half, trailing by just 30-19 midway through the second quarter.
But then Sacred Heart went on a 18-9 run for the remainder of the half. By the end of the third quarter, the lead grew to 30 points.
Jordan Booker and Ty Sands, Crosby’s two best players, combined for just 12 points.
“They are better than we are, obviously,” Augelli said. “I thought we’d be able to keep it close and if we shot well, we could beat them. But we unraveled. We had no composure. We had to have 25 turnovers. We got them to turn the ball over, but we turned it over ourselves. And they weren’t pressing us.”
This was just the first of a three-game grueling stretch for the Hearts in four days. Tonight, the Hearts travel to Springfield, Massachusetts, to face Foothills Christian, California, in the Spalding HoopHall Classic at 7:45 p.m.
On Monday, Sacred Heart travels to Baruch College in New York City to face Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.) at 5:45 p.m. in the final game of the Big Apple Basketball H.S. Invitational.
“We will try and go out and represent our state the best we can,” Heron said. “I’ve been looking forward to this since last year. This is where we show who we are, this is prime time, showtime right here.”
The reason Carroll scheduled these two out-of-state games was to test them on a national level.
‘I’d like to think we present as many matchup problems as the other guys do,” Carroll said. “The truth of the matter is, there are two possible outcomes and either way, we are going to get better as a team. Would we like to win them? Absolutely. Will they be competitive? I think they absolutely will.”
SACRED HEART 96, CROSBY 61
Crosby 12 16 16 17 – 61
Sacred Heart 24 24 26 22 – 96
Tyairus Sands 2 2-4 7, Rory Judusingh 2 0-2 4, Jerimiah Kendall 11 3-5 25, Jordan Booker 2 0-0 5, Dan Jones 1 0-2 2, Daquan Sinisterra 6 0-0 13, Miguel Rivera 2 0-0 5, Justice Guilbonne 0 0-1 0. Totals: 26 5-14 61
SACRED HEART (96)
Charles Fisher 6 2-2 15, Raheem Solomon 2 1-2 6, JT Riddick 4 1-1 9, Tyran Flowers 11 2-6 28, Mustapha Heron 11 3-6 26, Corie Stephenson 4 0-2 10, Legend Johnson 0 2-2 2. Totals: 38 11-21 96
3-point goals: Crosby 4 (Sands 1, Booker 1, Sinisterra 1, Rivera 1); Sacred Heart 9 (Fisher 1, Solomon 1, Flowers 4, Heron 1, Stephenson 2); Records: Crosby 6-2; Sacred Heart 8-0