The Class D South boys basketball tournament has taken on an additional, unexpected storyline.

Seventh-seeded Temple Academy (9-9) underwent a coaching change last Friday, with athletic director Phil Hubbard taking over for Tom Simmons. Hubbard declined to go into reasons for the change, or whether Simmons stepped down or was removed from the position. Hubbard also had no comment on the status of the job after this season, clarifying only that there wouldn’t be another change coming up.

“I’m the head coach for the rest of the season,” he said.

The shakeup occurred just over a week before Temple’s matchup with No. 2 Valley (13-5) on Saturday. Greenville (16-2), the top seed and defending regional champion, faces No. 8 Rangeley (9-9), No. 3 Gould (14-4) faces No. 6 Pine Tree Academy (9-9) and No. 4 Forest Hills (13-5) takes on No. 5 Seacoast Christian (11-7).

The consensus is that Greenville, riding a 16-game winning streak and bringing back the bulk of a starting lineup led by Nick Foley and Devin Boone, remains the favorite.

“At the start of the season everybody thought Greenville was the team to beat, and I think they still are,” said Forest Hills coach Anthony Amero, whose team was the only one in D South to beat the Lakers. “They’ve been there, done that, and the whole team’s back.”


The team with the first crack at upsetting the top seed is Rangeley, which will try to do so with a significant disadvantage in playoff experience — senior Kyle LaRochelle is the only Laker who has played a playoff game at the Augusta Civic Center.

“We’ve been working on blocking out and limiting to only one shot, and a lot on defensive rotation” coach Jeff LaRochelle said. “Obviously, they’re first for a reason. … We’re just going to try to spread the floor on offense, have their size come out and try to match up with us and see what happens.”

Kyle LaRochelle, a high-scoring guard, gives the Lakers the weapon they might need to break the bracket, but Coach LaRochelle said the contributions from that inexperienced cast will be just as important.

“It’s those other guys that need to step up, that during the course of the season had good games here and there but not a lot of consistency,” he said. “What my guys need to do, because there are going to be some nerves there, is just play through it and try to keep the game close.”

The matchup between Valley and Temple could be the closest of the quarterfinals based on the regular season, which had the Cavaliers win both games by a total of seven points.

“It’s a tough matchup for us,” Valley coach Curtis Miller said. “We beat them twice so we have to keep our confidence up. … They’re pretty big, so we’ve just got to guard the post and keep people out of the paint.”


The Bereans have the size advantage but the Cavaliers, led offensively by Josh Brown, are faster and quicker, and Miller looks for that to pay off as it did in the team’s second matchup, during which Valley got out to a double-digit lead before relaxing and letting Temple rally before closing out a 62-57 win.

“Definitely, one of our strengths is speed,” Miller said. “We may not be very big, but we’re really fast. We’ve got to make sure we box out and rebound, then push that ball as fast as we can.”

Temple had a chance to win the first game with the ball on the final possession before falling 49-47, and though it remains to be seen how well the team will come out after the coaching change, Hubbard said the team started to get acclimated to its new coach later in the week.

“They understand what I’m looking for from the team,” said Hubbard, who also coaches boys soccer and is a former assistant basketball coach at Erskine Academy. “We’re just trying to be more disciplined in the way we play, and we’re trying to have a good basketball I.Q.”

The Bereans, led by Micah Riportella and Ilija Ivkovic, have won three of its last four games, and the only loss was to fellow tournament team Forest Hills by one point.

“I’m just hoping this time we can execute a little better than we did last time,” Hubbard said. “They really shoot the ball well from the outside. … There’s nothing flashy. They just do the job.”


Forest Hills could be on the mend in time for a playoff run. The Tigers looked like a favorite in the making early in the season, but a broken foot for star Parker Desjardins, a dislocated shoulder for Jakob Rivas and an ankle injury for Kenn Vito Cruz stretched them thin for much of the season, with Coach Amero estimating that the team has played 80 percent of the season without one, two or all three players.

Rivas is back now, however, and Vito Cruz could be back today, giving the Tigers their top two defensive players. Desjardins needs more time, but could be back if Forest Hills keeps winning.

“That’s been the biggest things for us, just building momentum with our lineup playing together healthy,” Amero said. “We haven’t had a lot of luck in that department, but hopefully we turn the corner with that and peak at the right time.”

If the Tigers move on, Amero said their running style could set them up for success on the bigger Civic Center court.

“The unknown factor becomes a 94-foot court. That can change things,” he said. “We’re telling our guys ‘Hey, be excited. We’re made for this. We’re small and quick.’ … If you can stay in the tournament long enough and your team is quick and can get up and down the court, that pays off in the back end.”

Gould and Pine Tree could be in for another game that goes down to the final seconds. The Bears won both games during the regular season but the Breakers made them work, with Gould winning 56-49 on Jan. 3 and then 57-53 on Jan. 27.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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