AUGUSTA — There was one rebound after another. One long pass after another. Followed by transition basket after transition basket.

The points just kept coming for the Forest Hills boys basketball team. And for the Tigers this season, so have the wins.

Jakob Rivas scored 22 points, Brandon Gilboe added 19 and top-seeded, fast-breaking Forest Hills took its undefeated season into the Class D South final for the first time since 2015 with a 72-37 win over No. 5 Greenville at the Augusta Civic Center Wednesday.

“We didn’t let them get in a rhythm early,” said coach Anthony Amero, whose team improved to 20-0. “And once we got running, we’re a pretty good running team.”

Camden Harmon had 11 points and eight rebounds and Noah Bilodeau had seven for the Lakers (9-11), who were dethroned after a pair of D South titles, as well as last year’s state championship

“When they get out in transition like that, it’s tough. It’s basically you miss a shot, they score two points,” Greenville first-year coach Joseph Pelletier said. “They’re really good at spreading the scoring around. Tough team.”

It became obvious early that there was going to be a changing of the guard. The Lakers had no answers for the Tigers’ transition game as Forest Hills built leads of 18-8 by the end of the first quarter and 36-17 by the end of the half. Twelve of those points came on the fastbreak, most often in the form of Hunter Cuddy (12 rebounds), Gilboe (eight rebounds) or Parker Desjardins (14 points, eight rebounds) gathering missed shots and slinging passes down the length of the court for Rivas to finish on the other end.

“With 37 kids in our high school, we’re all about what we have for personnel (and how) we can adapt to make it work for that year or for a couple of years,” Amero said. “Hunter was doing that in eighth grade, you could see it. He likes that long pass, he’s got a great arm. … And the kids have learned over the years from playing together for so long, if I run down the court, I’m going to get a pass and I can get a couple of easy points.”

The dizzying pace was never more effective than at the start of the third, when Forest Hills scored the first eight points of the quarter in a span of 2:16, all by Rivas, all on the fastbreak.

For the game, the Tigers scored 26 of their 72 points on the break, with Rivas accounting for 18 of them.

Greenville defender Christopher Caiazzo, left, knocks the ball away from Forest Hills guard Jakob Rivas before he can take a layup during a Class D south semifinal game Wednesday at the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

“In practice, we don’t do as much drills, we like to scrimmage a lot against our second string,” Rivas said. “It’s a lot of getting the ball out of the net as quickly as possible, up to half court and just get it into the other net and score on them.”

When the Tigers did slow things down, Gilboe — who had 15 points by halftime — was dangerous in the half court.

“I don’t have a need to step up. I know my players around me, they’re going to do their part,” he said. “And I’m going to do mine, which is getting offensive boards, making layups and running with Jakob and Dalton (Gregoire, nine points). Or, trying to keep up with them.”

As impressive as Forest Hills’s offense was, Amero was quicker to point out the work of the defense. The Tigers were singed by outside shooting in a 62-49 win over Greenville on Jan. 10, and Amero made sure his defense was ready to take away those open looks.

“We didn’t want them getting going on the 3-point shots,” he said. “We felt good at halftime because we only gave up one 3-pointer in the first half, and that was on a transition off of our press. … That was a key to us.”

Pelletier said the defensive tweak left the Lakers fighting left-handed.

“They definitely did a great job closing out, and I thought the difference was the fifth man,” he said. “They knew we were kind of top-heavy with our four, and they were pulling that fifth man right in the paint, daring our fifth guy to shoot. It was just putting him in an uncomfortable position.”

Drew Bonifant – 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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