The first two times the Forest Hills High School boys basketball team reached the Class D state championship game, in 2012 and 2013, coach Anthony Amero could feel the nervous energy around the school in the week leading up to the game.

This time, Amero said, is different.

“This is totally relaxed,” Amero said. “Everybody is enjoying the experience.”

Forest Hills (21-0), which won the state title in 2013, will try for its second gold ball in three years, when it takes on Fort Fairfield on Saturday at 2:45 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Fort Fairfield (18-4) is playing in the state championship game for the first time since 1988, when it lost the Class C title game to Old Orchard Beach.

With four seniors with tons of varsity experience — Tanner Daigle, Brandon Ouellette, Ryan Petrin and Matt Turner — Forest Hills was the favorite to win Western Maine Class D. Fort Fairfield is somewhat of an upstart. Fort Fairfield was the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Class D tournament, and advanced to the state game with a semifinal win over No. 2 Southern Aroostook, which beat Fort Fairfield twice in the regular season, and a regional final win over No. 1 Washburn, which beat Fort Fairfield once in the regular season.

“They’re a scrappy team,” Amero said of Fort Fairfield. “They remind me a lot of our kids.”

Forest Hills has experience rarely seen in Class D. The four senior starters have contributed since they were freshmen. Each averages at least 12.7 points per game. Daigle leads the way with 17 points per game. Turner, a 1,000-point scorer, averages 14.2 points per game. Petrin had a pair of 30-point games in the Western Class D tournament and was named the Most Valuable Player, and averages 13.2 points. Ouellette set a Western Class D tournament record with eight 3-pointers in Forest Hills’ regional semifinal win over Seacoast Christian, and averages 12.7 points per game.

“We have four guys who have the ability to step up, and they do it inside the team concept,” Amero said. “We had two guys with 30 point games (in the Western Class D tournament), and it was within the flow of the game.”

Fort Fairfield also has a balanced scoring attack, led by senior forward Robbie Watson, who averaged 16.3 points per game in the Eastern Class D tournament. Guards Chris Giberson and Caleb Daigle, along with forward Hunter Beaulieu, are also scoring threats.

“They’ve got four solid scorers. They’re not going to pass up the opportunity to shoot,” Amero said. “They have such quick ball movement against a zone. They know what they’re looking for. Beaulieu handles the ball very well and finds cutters. Watson, if he get space, it’s going to be a three. We have to communicate off screens.”

With the 6-foot-4 Daigle and 6-3 Petrin, Forest Hills has a slight size advantage. Amero said his team’s greatest strenght may be its basketball I.Q. Often at halftime, by the time Amero hits the locker room after going over things with his assistant coaches, the team has talked enough about the game to offer input towards second half strategy.

“They think basketball at such a high level,” Amero said. “Saturday is the last time I get to coach this group. We’re just going to enjoy this. We don’t feel any pressure.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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