Forest Hills played in its first Class D boys basketball state championship game Saturday afternoon, losing 83-45 to a loaded Jonesport-Beals team. On the bus ride back to Jackman after the game, the Tigers players — all of whom return next season — were already talking about what they can do to improve for next season.

One thing that came up was a tougher schedule, especially during the summer. The Tigers realize that winning a game by 50 won’t help them against the heavyweights.

“They’re OK with losing, because they understand we’ve got to play better teams to get better,” Forest Hills coach Anthony Amero said.

There will be some big expectations over the next few years for Forest Hills, which had four freshmen play significant minutes this season. Three of them are already 6-footers and are expected to grow a few more inches.

“One of the things we teach the kids, first day on, is ‘Buy into what the people in this room are telling you. Keep to our game plan. Keep to our goals,’ ” Amero said. “The kids are really good about that. They’re a pretty level-headed group. I think it starts with Evan (Worster).”

Of course, the expectations are good-natured within the community. Amero has talked many times about how many former players are willing to help out in practices.

“We had grown men crying after that Hyde game (in the Western D final), because they were so proud that we finally won one,” Amero said.

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Gardiner graduates six seniors from the team that lost the Class B boys basketball state final to Yarmouth on Friday. Coach Jason Cassidy says what he’ll miss most about that group — Alonzo Connor, Matt Hall, Travis Kelley, Justin Lovely, Jake Palmer and Aaron Toman — is its closeness.

“They really, really care about each other,” Cassidy said. “They care about the adults in their lives, including their coaches and parents. If you could pick kids to be in your family, these are the kind of kids you would pick.”

Without those seniors, the Tigers will be underdogs in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B next season, but there are good numbers coming through the system.

“I anticipate next year will be a little bit of a rebuilding year for us, for sure,” Cassidy said. “Our ninth and eighth and seventh and sixth grade classes, there’s really a lot of kids playing basketball, and they’re having success at their level.”

* * *

The Hall-Dale girls, who lost to Central in Saturday’s Class C state final, will also be expected to drop off some after losing five seniors, including three starters, to graduation. But coach Brandon Terrill says he has a great staff with Gordon Fuller, Christen Lachapelle and Kevin Crosman, and he plans on sticking around.

“Right now, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” Terrill said.

The Bulldogs won the state title last season and are 39-5 over the last two seasons. One example of the team’s popularity was shown Friday, when they visited the elementary school.

“All of those girls were just ecstatic to see our team,” Terrill said. “We gave every girl a team picture. They all tried to get autographs on the team pictures.

“They’ve really captured the hearts of our community. I think they’ve been role models for another whole generation of girls in our community, who will want to grow up and play basketball for the Lady Bulldogs like their heroes.”

The seniors on this season’s Hall-Dale team were Kristina Buck, Catie Eccleston, Wendy Goldman, Paley Sweet and Carylanne Wolfington.

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Richmond loses only two seniors — Danica Hurley and Lindsy Hoopingarner — from the team that lost to Washburn in Saturday’s Class D girls state final.

“The kids started talking as soon as the game was over about how we attack next year,” coach Molly Bishop said. “They want to run more.”

One reporter, when interviewing Washburn coach Mike Carlos after the game, was persistent in trying to get Carlos to predict a rematch in next year’s state final. But Rangeley also has a solid team coming back in Western D, and Bishop said her players know winning another regional title won’t be easy.

“They know in their heads that it takes a lot of work to get there,” Bishop said. “They realize that anything can happen. They’ve been there.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

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