For decades, Don Finley was an important person in and around Skowhegan Area High School. Now, visitors to the school’s refurbished gymnasium will see how much Finley meant to the Skowhegan community.

In between games of last Friday’s boys and girls basketball doubleheader against Lawrence, Skowhegan dedicated the gym in Finley’s memory. Finley worked at Skowhegan from 1981 until his death from cancer in 2015 as a teacher, coach and athletic director.

The Class of 2017 donated a plaque recognizing Finley and his contributions to the school, which will be placed at the gym entrance.

“Fin was important to so many people,” said Sam Boivin, President of Skowhegan’s Class of 2017.

The Class of 2017 had extra money after its Project Graduation. When officers heard of the gym dedication, they felt using the funds to honor Finley was better than saving the money for a possible reunion party years from now, Boivin said.

Skowhegan athletic director Jon Christopher said the event led to a packed gym, with an overflow crowd in the lobby, a testament to the Skowhegan community’s love and respect for Finley.

A Skowhegan native, Finley taught in the social studies department at Skowhegan from 1981 to 2012. From 1982 to 1998, Finley was Skowhegan’s varsity baseball coach, and was inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2012, Finley became the school’s athletic director. For years, Finley also kept stats at Skowhegan football games and the score book at basketball games.

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Valley (6-1) vaulted into the top spot in Class D South Heal points with a win Wednesday over rival Forest Hills.

“We’ve got a little bit of everything,” Valley coach Curtis Miller said when describing Valley’s playing style. “We’re running the ball a lot… When things are clicking, we’re pretty tough.”

Valley is in the midst of a tough stretch of the schedule. There’s a game against Class C Piscataquis scheduled for Friday, as well as games at Temple Academy and Greenville next week. For continued success, the Cavaliers must focus on defense, Miller said.

“We need to play defense for 32 minutes,” Miller said. “We’ve had some games where we’ve stayed together defensively.”

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After an 0-3 start, Messalonskee coach Peter McLaughlin was looking for a spark. He may have found it in freshman guard Matthew Parent. McLaughlin inserted Parent into the starting lineup for the Dec. 19 game against Waterville. Since then, the Eagles have won three straight games to even their record at 3-3.

Parent played well over the summer, McLaughlin said. With the Eagles struggling early in the season to find consistent offense, Parent gives the team another perimeter threat. In Tuesday’s 49-43 win over Erskine, Parent scored 11 points. His 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter helped the Eagles retake the lead after Erskine rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to go ahead.

“Against Lawrence, against Brewer, it just didn’t feel right. We’re a little bit undersized when we do that, but I think the offensive spark (Parent) gives us,” McLaughlin said. “He’s incredibly intelligent with his basketball IQ. He’s a leader on the court. He’s talking to the guys. He does not act like a freshman. That’s what I love about him the most. He wants the ball in his hands.”

With tough games coming up against Hampden, Gardiner and Skowhegan, Parent and the Eagles will be tested as they defend their regional title. McLaughlin said he expects Parent to continue to improve and be a complement to veterans like Chase Warren and Cole Wood.

“He’s a great free throw shooter. (Parent) does all the little things, and when you do that in my program, you’re going to play,” McLaughlin said.

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With just eight players on the roster when completely healthy, Forest Hills’ depth is about to be tested by injuries to a pair of starters. Freshman guard Parker Desjardins, the Tigers leading scorer, will likely miss the season with a broken foot, coach Anthony Amero said. Jakob Rivas, a junior guard, is out with a dislocated shoulder.

The injuries leave Forest Hills with six players on the roster.

Amero said recovery time for Desjardins’ injury is three months. As of Thursday morning, Rivas had another doctor’s appointment scheduled for early next week, but is also expected to miss the rest of the season.

Starter Kenn Vito Cruz was lost in the third quarter of Wednesday’s loss at Valley with a wrist injury. Amero said he hopes the injury is not severe and Vito Cruz will be back in the lineup soon.

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Around the state: A big game next week in Class C North is Fort Fairfield (6-1) at Central Aroostook (6-1). The teams are currently one-two in the regional standings… At 6-1, Windham leads Class AA North. The Eagles have big games against tough AA South opponents Thornton Academy and South Portland… Defending Class A champ Greely is undefeated at 6-0. The Rangers have a big game scheduled for Tuesday against also unbeaten York.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM