It hasn’t just been weeks that the Forest Hills boys basketball team has been gearing up for the Class D South boys basketball tournament. Or even months.

Instead, it’s been about a year since the Tigers first put these next few weeks in their crosshairs.

“Everybody left with such a bitter taste in their mouths last year,” coach Anthony Amero said. “We felt that we could win the whole thing last year … (and) we didn’t feel like we had good luck last year. As soon as that tournament was done, the kids were already talking about next year’s tournament. So it’s been a long, long time.”

That tournament is here, and there’s no doubt who the favorite is. At 18-0, the Tigers are armed and ready, having rolled through a regular season in which they won each game by at least 13 points, 17 by at least 20 and nine by 40 or more.

Forest Hills will open against No. 8 Seacoast Christian (3-15), while No. 2 Temple (13-5) will play No. 7 Pine Tree Academy (5-13), No. 3 Valley (13-5) faces No. 6 Vinalhaven (2-14) and No. 4 Rangeley (12-6) gets No. 5 and defending champion Greenville (8-10).

“I think it’s Forest Hills and everybody else,” Temple coach Scott Corey said. “We are chasing Forest Hills, clearly.”

It’s easy to understand why. With players like dangerous shooter Parker Desjardins, daily double-double candidate Brandon Gilboe and a supporting cast led by Hunter Cuddy and Jakob Rivas, both of whom can score in the high teens in any game, the Tigers have a degree of depth rarely seen at the Class D level.

Forest Hills’ Parker Desjardins dives for a loose ball as Rangeley defender Callahan Crosby tries to make a play during a Dec. 29 game at Cony High School in Augusta. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“We’ve been fortunate to have that No. 1 on our back a few times over the years. What we find is, probably about the midseason point, if you’re ranked No. 1, teams tend to come for you a little bit more,” Amero said. “In the regular season, that tests you quite often. You play on the road, the home crowd gets into it. … That’s one of the things we’ve talked to the kids about, you’re going to be challenged every night.”

They’re the decisive favorites, but it’s unlikely the Tigers will be sleepwalking through the early rounds. The motivation begins early, as first up is No. 8 Seacoast — the team that beat a depleted Forest Hills team in the D South quarterfinals last season.

“The kids are really fired up to play them,” Amero said, “and hopefully get even for that experience.”

On the other hand, Amero knows that his team has some work to do, and that plenty of favorites have been tripped up on their way to cutting down nets.

“You never know what could happen,” he said. “Midway through that first game, we could have two ankles roll over and then you’re in a different world.”

Forest Hills was that team last year, and No. 2 Temple (13-5) played that role this winter. The Bereans’ season was a comedy of errors from a health perspective, with sixth man Noah Shepherd missing five weeks with a broken pinky, followed by top player Ilija Ivkovic missing four weeks with a broken wrist, guard Oscar Camarena missing three weeks with a bruised wrist, and starting center Nick Blaisdell sitting two weeks with a rolled ankle — suffered the same day Shepherd returned.

“It certainly has been quite something,” Corey said.

The team has been fully back since the 17th week, however, and with the injury woes hopefully out of the way, Corey’s hoping he has the squad in place for a deep run. It would start with a good showing against Pine Tree, with Corey emphasizing that patience on offense will be a key.

Forest Hills’ Hunter Cuddy (22) draws a foul from Temple defender Nathan Wiles during a Jan. 18 game in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“They played a 1-2-2 or a 2-3 zone the two times we played them, and sometimes we just fall in love with the first shot we see. It could be a 20-footer, and that’s not what we’re looking to do,” he said. “Really, we need to value the ball way more than we have at times.”

Valley brings a dose of firepower into the tournament, starting with the first matchup with Vinalhaven. Point guard Joey Thomas has been one of the East/West Conference’s best players and has consistently scored in the 20s, and forward Spencer Hunnewell and guard Keegan Farnham are versatile players who can distribute, rebound and score.

“We’ve had some really good games in the halfcourt with teams that have slowed it down, but also, with Joey, we’re really fast,” coach Curtis Miller said. “We’re coming along. The last two or three weeks of the season we’ve adjusted a lot of things. We’re definitely kind of peaking right now, compared to the rest of the season.”

Rangeley will face Greenville for the first time since last year’s quarterfinals, when Greenville rolled to a 56-22 win on its way to a state title. Greenville lost the core of its championship teams but has a solid bunch, particularly one that can hurt teams from outside, as it showed while hitting 10 3-pointers in an overtime loss to Valley in the regular season. Camden Harmon, Nick Caiazzo and Noah Bilodeau will lead that perimeter attack.

Nolan Boone is the main weapon for Rangeley, but Ian Lillis and Kenny Thompson are also solid options for the Lakers.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.