Before the start of the season, when he realized he’d start three freshmen, Forest Hills boys basketball coach Anthony Amero kept his team’s goals small. Let’s go .500, he said, and make it to the Western Class D tournament at the Augusta Civic Center for the 12th straight year.

“Our goal, honestly, we wanted to keep the tourney streak alive,” Amero said.

That won’t be a problem. Amero’s Tigers have won eight straight games and, at 12-3, are ranked second in the region and are exceeding all of Amero’s expectations.

“I can’t believe how far they’ve come,” Amero said. “We’ve kept it pretty loose with them, and it’s been fun that way.”

What makes Forest Hills’ eight-game win streak even more impressive is that seven of the wins came on the road, including Tuesday’s 55-53 win at Greenville, in which the Tigers trailed by 14 points entering the fourth quarter.

The Tigers entered the season with one returning starter, junior Evan Worster. A starter since eighth grade, Worster averages 26 points per game, and is 23 points shy of 1,000 for his career. In last week’s 77-30 win over Pine Tree Academy, Worster had 31 points and 22 rebounds.

Junior Derick Ouellette has emerged as a scoring threat and a strong rebounder.

“He does all the little things,” Amero said. “(Tuesday) night he had 13 points, and we didn’t run one play for him.”

It’s the development of the freshman class: Matt Turner, Ryan Petrin, Brandon Ouellette and Tanner Daigle, that has Amero excited.

“For 30 to 45 minutes the night before a game, we have film sessions,” Amero said. “Now, they’re going in and getting game tape on their own. They’re watching to see what they’re doing wrong, and they’re improving.”

The Tigers close the regular season with home games against Buckfield and Acadia Christian, and a road trip to Seacoast Christian. Win all three, and Forest Hills should hang on to the No. 2 seed in the Western Class D tournament. The Tigers also have an outside shot at the top seed, depending how Hyde finishes the regular season.

* * *

Valley coach Wade Morrill says Saturday’s come-from-behind 59-56 win over Vinalhaven is the kind of game that could set the tone for his team come tournament time.

Trailing by nine points with 1:28 to go, the Cavaliers rallied for the win, which came on Carrington Miller’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“I personally cannot remember a Valley game like that,” Morrill said. “We had defensive intensity at the end, and our kids stepped up a bit.”

After opening the season with eight straight wins, the Cavs (12-4) struggled when hit with some key injuries. Miller, the team’s leading scorer, missed some time with an upper back injury.

“He couldn’t get his left arm above his head, and he’s left handed,” Morrill said. “We went 1-3 without him.”

Valley played most of Tuesday’s 51-32 win over Richmond without guard Caleb Wade, who had to leave the game to get stitches above his eye.

“It wasn’t dirty, he just caught an elbow to the eye,” Morrill said. “We haven’t had our full team together since Christmas vacation.”

Sophomore Dylan Belanger, a 6-foot forward, has played well, Morrill said, particularly on defense, where he routinely gives up 4 or 5 inches of height to his opponent.

“(Belanger) guards the biggest player on the other team. He’s a workhorse for us,” Morrill said.

Valley is currently ranked third in Western Class D, but could take second place with wins over Piscataquis and Pine Tree Academy to close the regular season, and a loss by Forest Hills in one of its final three games.

* * *

Mt. Blue’s 41-39 overtime win at Bangor on Tuesday was that signature regular season win the Cougars needed, not only to boost themselves in the Eastern Class A Heal point rankings, but their confidence, as well.

“It was about time. We’ve played a lot of good teams tough, and come away empty,” coach Jim Bessey said following the win.

The Cougars are 11-4, with each loss a close game against another top team. Mt. Blue lost a pair of games to top-ranked Hampden, 66-57 at Hampden early in the season and a 65-63 overtime loss last week in a game in which the Cougars led by six points with a minute left in regulation.

Mt. Blue also had a 56-54 loss to Bangor, and a 59-56 loss at Brunswick.

Although Tuesday’s game was a win for Mt. Blue, it was another game in which the Cougars struggled to put away an opponent in the fourth quarter. Mt. Blue led by eight points with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, before the Rams rallied to take a brief lead.

“We need to see how we can step up to the next level and keep our cohesiveness,” said senior point guard Eric Berry, who scored the game-winning layup with 2 seconds left in overtime.

The win pushed the Cougars into third place in the Eastern Class A standings, and a win at Lawrence (10-5) tonight could vault Mt. Blue into second.

“We have another big game (today) down at Lawrence, so we have to get ready,” Bessey said.

* * *

With just three games left in the regular season, there are still a number of scenarios among teams fighting for playoff berths in Eastern A.

The top nine teams qualify with the No. 8 and No. 9 playing a prelim game for a chance to go to the Augusta Civic Center. Erskine is sitting in 11th place, just a point behind Oxford Hills and three points behind No. 9 Brewer.

The Eagles play at Oxford Hills tonight, host Brunswick on Tuesday and finish the season Thursday at Cony. A win in any of those games could possibly put them in the tournament but two would virtually assure it. Tonight’s game in South Paris is a big one. Erskine beat Oxford Hills 56-50 in South China and Erskine coach Ben Willoughby expects a physical battle.

“If we want to make it to the postseason, we’ve got some must wins coming up,” Willoughby said.

Erskine has played a number of teams tough but only has six wins so far against nine losses. They were beaten 48-37 by a solid Edward Little team earlier this week.

“We played hard in that game but we missed an opportunity,” Willoughby said. “We cut the lead to two in the fourth quarter but we couldn’t seem to keep the momentum.”

The Eagles were beaten 60-39 at Brunswick earlier this season in what Willoughby calls one of their worst games of the season. They played without center Tyler Belanger but he doesn’t think his presence would have made much of a difference.

“The game was over in the first half,” he said. “Their quickness really bothered us.”

Brewer plays No. 1 Hampden and No. 5 Bangor and a win against either of those teams would likely push Erskine out of the tournament. It could come down to the final game of the season at Cony, a team the Eagles beat earlier this season in South China.

“That would be interesting,” Willoughby said. “We match up well with Cony.”

Cony, for the time being, appears locked into the No. 8 position. Should the Eagles secure the No. 9 spot, they would have to play the Rams again in a prelim game.

Staff Writer Gary Hawkins contributed to this report.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.