Two small communities. Two teams with head coaches who are also their school’s athletic directors, and who happen to be friends. Two teams who have played each other five teams in the last two seasons.
Valley and Forest Hills have plenty in common.
The schools will renew acquintances Saturday afternoon when they face off for the Western D boys basketball regional title this afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center.
“Forest Hills is kind of our rival, so it will be exciting going against them,” Valley senior Carrington Miller said. “That’s a rivalry, so we know that will be fun.”
Not much separates No. 1 Forest Hills (18-2) from No. 3 Valley (17-3). Both teams are led by senior stars. Miller averaged 21 points per game in the regular season for Valley and is averaging 27.5 in two playoff games. Evan Worster is the all-time leading scorer at Forest Hills and averaged 19.1 points in the regular season.
Both teams also have gotten key contributions from other players in their lineup. Josh West is averaging 20.5 points in the playoffs for Valley, while Derick Ouellette scored a career-high 32 in the Tigers’ semifinal win over A.R. Gould.
A year ago, Valley swept Forest Hills in the regular season, only to lose to the Tigers in the regional semifinals. This winter, the teams split in the regular season. Valley won a close game at home, 54-53, then lost by 23 in Jackman.
“We felt lucky to get one out of them last year and payback, I’m sure is what they are thinking,” Forest Hills coach Anthony Amero said.
Added Valley coach Wade Morrill: “There are not many secrets between us and Forest Hills. Last time we played them, in their gym, they laid a smack on us. They controlled the game from start to finish and we had no answers for what they were doing.”
Keeping Miller from controlling the game, and keeping Valley from controlling the pace, will be keys to victory, Amero said. Miller, a 6-foot-2 guard, not only can create offense for himself, but is a terrific passer and rebounder. He averaged eight rebounds and six assists per game in the regular season.
Forest Hills’ guard Brandon Ouellette, listed at 5-9, will likely spend time guarding the taller Miller.
“I just try to get into his head,” Ouellette, a sophomore, said. “I guarded him the second game and he only scored 18 points.”
With the exception of Miller, Forest Hills has a size advantage. Worster is 6-3 and is joined in the starting lineup by 6-2 forward Ryan Petrin and 6-1 guard Derick Ouellette.
“Forest Hill is big, they outsize us so they will try to go into the paint on us,” Miller said.
The two schools, while rivals, have a mutal respect for one another.
“Coach Morrill and I, since he began, we know this is a big rivalry, we are both athletic directors, he’s a good young man and we’ve really tried to build a friendship outside of basketball because we know we are going to have to deal with the rivalry,” Amero said. “And we truly are friends outside of the game and have been. We’ve tried to turn it into a nice, I don’t want to say comfortable rivalry, but a respectful rivalry.”
Staff writer Gary Hawkins contributed to this report
Scott Martin — 621-5618