With three starters back from last season’s Class D state championship team, the Forest Hills High School boys basketball team didn’t have many holes to fill to be considered a contender again. One question mark was in the low post, where the Tigers lost Derick Ouellette to graduation.
Quietly, what was a question at the beginning at the season became a strength. Junior Tanner Daigle, the team’s 6-foot-3 sixth man a year ago, took over, and gave the Tigers to presence in the middle they wanted, and needed.
“That’s one of the things I’ve always been proud of, we always have a good post game,” Forest Hills coach Anthony Amero said. “In Class D, that’s a crucial element.”
The top seed in the Western Class D tournament, Forest Hills (17-2) will take on rival, No. 4 Valley (15-4) in the regional semifinals Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. at the Augusta Civic Center.
Daigle averaged 19 points and nine rebounds per game in the regular season. He knew his role would expand this season, and Daigle welcomed it.
“I was more excited than nervous,” Daigle said.
Still, he had to work on his game, and that’s where the Tigers’ history of strong big men helped. A few Forest Hills alumni who live in the Jackman area, including Cody Gilboe, Ray Petrin and Bob Manix, all former centers for the Tigers, worked with Daigle, helping him improve.
“It was hard work and fun,” Daigle said. “Those are all big guys with good moves.”
Added Amero: “Our alumni have been working with that kid, year round, that last two seasons. They come in all the time and give him size to play against and work on his post moves… He’s really done well developing two post moves that are solid, so next year, hopefully he develops a third move.”
Daigle thinks his best move is his drop step.
“Just getting my foot around behind a guy, it’s something I tried last year season and couldn’t do,” Daigle. “Now I can do it.”
“He’s much more comfortable working on the block than when we first got him. He wanted to turn and face everything, now he’s gotten moves back to the basket,” Amero said.
Daigle expected to improve. He didn’t expect to see his scoring average jump by nearly 13 points per game.
“I thought I’d have some points here and there,” Daigle said. “With Matt (Turner), Ryan (Petrin) and Brandon (Ouellette) returning starters, I thought they’d do most of the scoring.”
Amero said Daigle’s improved offense opened up the game for the other Tigers. All four juniors average at least 10 points per game. Early in the season, Daigle seemed worried that by shooting, he was stepping on his teammates’ toes. Amero quickly assured him that wasn’t the case.
“We had a couple early games that were blowouts and he was the leading scorer. As soon as we went to the tough part of the schedule, he was looking around like, should I still keep shooting, Coach? Is that my role?” Amero said. “The other guys have been good at saying, âTanner, we want to go inside-out, so if you have the ball, you shoot and score. Those are high percentage shots. We want you to shoot, Tanner. That opens up the rest of us.’
“They just want to win. They don’t care who scores.”