At the start of the season, coaches around Western Class D said that come tournament time, the region might be the toughest to figure out. The regular season did nothing to change that opinion. The combined winning percentage of .764 gives the Western D field the highest winning percentage of any region in the state.
Even with a wide-open field, Valley coach Luke Hartwell sees top seed Forest Hills (16-2), the defending state champ, as the favorite.
“They’re the two-time Western Maine champ. I think it has to be Forest Hills,” Hartwell said.
“Everybody’s got those two or three good guys up front,” Forest Hills coach Anthony Amero said. “If you can maximize your fourth and fifth guy, you’re ahead of the game.”
The tournament begins at 8:30 Saturday morning, with No. 6 North Haven (16-2) playing No. 3 Greenville (15-3) at the Augusta Civic Center.
Forest Hills plays No. 9 Islesboro (9-8), a team it did not play in the regular season. Islesboro advanced with a 55-47 win over Richmond in the preliminary round. Forest Boucher and Cameron Jack combined to score 35 points for Islesboro in that game, and Amero said stopping them is key to advancing.
Despite having just one senior, Nathan Jalbert, in the starting lineup, Forest Hills is one of the most experienced teams in the field.
“We have five juniors, and three of them have started for three years,” Amero said.
Tanner Daigle averages 18 points and nine rebounds for the Tigers, while Ryan Petrin averages 11 points and 12 rebounds per game. Brandon Ouellette (12 ppg) and Matt Turner (10 ppg) are also scoring threats for the Tigers.
No. 4 Valley (14-4) plays No. 5 North Yarmouth Academy, which is back in Class D after a few seasons playing up in Class C. Valley’s four losses came to two teams, as the Cavaliers lost to Forest Hills and Hyde twice.
“We’re starting to play good basketball,” Hartwell said. “The boys are trusting each other on the court.”
Dylan Belanger, Jordan Gillespie and Collin Miller lead the Cavaliers. NYA’s 6-foot-4 Chase Gendron could be a tough matchup for Valley. Gendron, along with El Tayeb Dahia, provide the offensive spark for NYA.
No. 2 Hyde (16-2) has a rematch with No. 7 Seacoast Christian (11-8), a team the Phoenix beat twice in the regular season by at least 27 points. In a 57-48 prelim win over Buckfield, Isaac LaCroix led Seacoast Christian with 24 points, while Logan Archer added 18.
Hyde is led by the strong inside duo of Akim Sammi and Wasami Mohamed. Wilson MacMillan is a strong 3-point shooter for the Phoenix.
Greenville (15-3) enters the tournament winner of 10 of its last 11 games, the lone loss coming at Valley in the regular season finale. North Haven (16-2) two losses each came against Forest Hills.