When a Forest Hills player takes a charge, his teammates on the bench go wild. The Tigers have introduced a charge chain this season, and it’s the most coveted piece of jewelry in Jackman.

“They get this emotional bump,” Forest Hills coach Anthony Amero said. “It fires them right up.”

Modeled after the University of Miami football team’s turnover chain, the charge chain is a board painted black and orange featuring the word “charge,” with a simple gold chain duct-taped to it. The player who takes the most charges in a game gets to wear it when the game is over. When the season is complete, the Tiger who took the most charges for the season will keep the charge chain. Currently, sophomore Hunter Cuddy leads with 17 charges taken.

With a roster of seven healthy players, defense is a key for Forest Hills. Tuesday’s 62-61 win at Temple Academy improved the Tigers to 12-5 with one regular season game left against North Haven next Tuesday. Forest Hills is in fourth place in the Class D South Heal point standings and appears locked into that spot for the tournament. As of Thursday morning, the Tigers were 13 points behind third-place A.R. Gould and 15 points ahead of fifth-place Pine Tree Academy.

To Amero, fourth place is a good place to be, considering the Tigers lost leading scorer Parker Desjardins to a broken foot in early January and Jacob Rivas missed some time with a separated shoulder. Rivas has since returned to the lineup, and the Tigers are 5-4 without Desjardins. One of the players who has stepped up his play is senior Jack Hoyt, who came into the season battling knee problems.

“Hoyt was going to be a role player and has gone out and played multiple minutes,” Amero said.

Senior guard Kenn Vito Cruz has taken on a bigger rebounding role, despite his 5-foot-5, 110-pound frame. With 102 rebounds on the season, Vito Cruz averages close to a rebound per pound.

As always, the lack of depth has made the Tigers cautious when fouling. The Tigers would rather let an opponent take a layup than foul. Consequently, the Tigers have taken 288 free throws, while their opponents have taken just 71.

“No dumb fouls, because we don’t have (the depth). We’re doing a good job about it,” Amero said.

In the win at Temple Academy Tuesday, four players scored in double figures for the Tigers, led by Brandon Gilboe’s 18 points and Cuddy’s 17. Amero is proud of the way the team responded when Desjardins went down.

“They haven’t quit on us, and that shows their character,” Amero said. “We’re playing good team basketball. Everybody contributes.”

As for Desjardins, Amero said don’t count him out for the tournament. The boot comes off Desjardins’ broken foot next week, and he’ll be re-evaluated.

“I would not rule him out. He’s still taking 500 shots a day,” Amero said.

• • •

When Winslow held Skowhegan scoreless in the second quarter of Tuesday’s 52-30 win, the next practice was on the minds of the Black Raiders. Winslow ends each practice with a series of planks, an exercise in which one lies still — with all the weight on the toes and forearms — for a period of time. The exercise strengthens the body’s core muscles. The time the Black Raiders plank is determined by the number of points they allow. In this case, 30 points meant 30 seconds of planking.

“They started talking about it towards the end (of the game),” Winslow coach Ken Lindlof said. “It’s all about the planks. It’s a motivational thing.”

Defense has been a key to Winslow’s current nine-game win streak. In those nine games, the Black Raiders (12-3) allowed 50 or more points just three times. Four times Winslow held opponents under 40 points.

In his first season as Winslow’s head coach, Lindlof said it was important to establish a strong defensive identity.

“It takes longer to develop an offense,” Lindlof said. “You can come in and employ a defense quickly. We have athletic kids who work at it.”

Back-to-back wins over Class A opponents Skowhegan and Lawrence improved the Black Raiders to fourth place in the Class B North Heal point standings. Winslow closes the regular season with three road games, beginning Friday at rival Waterville.

• • •

Defending Class A North champion Messalonskee is in a tough fight for a playoff spot. Wednesday’s win over Lawrence improved the Eagles record to 7-8, but Messalonskee is still three and a half points behind Gardiner for the eighth and final playoff spot in the region. Messalonksee’s final three regular season games are each worth a lot of Heal points, but they are also challenging. The Eagles host Class AA North contender Edward Little (11-4) Friday before games against playoff locks Skowhegan (9-6) and Cony (10-5) next week.

“These are huge teams we’re competing with. We’ve got to have that focus every day,” Messalonskee coach Peter McLaughlin said. “Cony’s as hot as anybody right now.”

When Messalonskee began the stretch run, which already has included games against playoff contenders Brunswick and Nokomis, McLaughlin told the team the magic number was four. With wins over Brewer and Lawrence, the Eagles need wins in two of these final three games to hit that number, although a victory over any of the remaining three opponents could be enough to vault into a playoff spot, depending on Gardiner’s results.

A key in recent wins has been offensive efficiency, McLaughlin said.

“For a while, we were still trying to find our identity. Over the course of the season, the quality of shots we’ve taken is at a varsity level,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin also credited the effort of Messalonskee’s seniors — Chase Warren, Cole Wood, Dawson Charles, and Colby Charette — for their leadership in an up and down season.

“After we lost to Brunswick (on Jan. 19), we had a long talk. These seniors have been local about how they want their season to go,” McLaughlin said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM