AUGUSTA — Anthony Amero shrugged off his team entering the Class D South boys basketball final against Temple Academy as a heavy favorite.

“Our kids are pretty respectful of how big of a deal this tournament is and how tough it is to get to a final,” Amero said. “They’re pleased to make it to the finals, but obviously they’re not satisfied, they want to go as far as they can…They haven’t taken anything for granted. For young kids, their perspective on it is really refreshing.”

The top-seeded Tigers (20-0) have been a force on offense this season, scoring 1,554 points (77.7 per game), while allowing 757 points (37.9 per game). That’s a 40-point difference — on average — in points during wins this season.

Temple’s Illija Ivkovic shoots over A Valley defender during a Class D South semifinal game Wednesday at the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

The Tigers and No. 2 Bereans (15-5) met twice during the regular season, with Forest Hills picking up a 93-67 win in Waterville on Jan. 18. The Tigers cruised again to an 84-50 victory on Feb. 1 in Jackman.

Amero said the Bereans pose a tough challenge this time around.

“They can handle the press (defense) better than they did earlier in the year,” Amero said. “Against Valley (in the semifinals), they broke press three times for layups. Those six points are big on the back-end of that game. They’re much improved there. They’ve got the biggest bench for any team that we’ve played in Class D … It makes them a little bit tougher to scout, because they’ve got a lot of kids averaging 10-12 points per game over the season.”

The Tigers bounced Seacoast Christian with an 85-33 victory in the quarterfinals and coasted to a 72-37 victory over Greenville in the semifinals.

In both games, the Tigers got off to quick starts, thanks to transition baskets and some 3-pointers. Senior forward Jacob Rivas, who provides a slashing style to the basket, and senior forward Brandon Gilboe, who has been a force in the post at both ends, lead the Tigers.

“We have a seven-man rotation,” Amero said. “Everybody’s got a green light (to shoot), right down to our eighth-grader coming off the bench. … If there was a shot clock, we’d be fine with that system, because we don’t hang on to (the ball) long. We want to get shots off, and we feel the more shots we take, the higher the percentage or chance of winning will be for us with this group.”

Temple, which has won four straight, leans on its most consistent player in senior forward Ilija Ivkovic, who has averaged 19.5 points per game in the tournament. Ivkovic has also receives help from guard Oscar Camarena and forward Nick Blaisdell. The Bereans come in with confidence after sinking Valley 57-52 in the semifinals.

“We made history,” Ivkovic said after the game, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. “Valley kicked us out last year, so we paid them back this year. It was a great game.”

Forest Hills has won three regional finals (2012, 2013, 2015), to go along with two state championships (2013, 2015). This will be the first regional final in program history for Temple.

RANGELEY RETURNS TO REGIONAL FINAL

Rangeley girls basketball coach Heidi Deery has led the Lakers to six regional crowns (1992, 1993, 2001, 2002, 2015, 2016) over her 25 seasons, winning state titles in 1993, 2004 and 2016.

The top-seeded Lakers will have the chance to add regional title No. 7 under Deery on Saturday they play Greenville at the Augusta Civic Center. The teams didn’t meet in the regular season.

The game will be a shot at redemption for Rangeley, which dropped a 59-49 decision to Vinalhaven in the regional title game last season.

“They’re going to be a real tough team,” Deery said. “They’re well-coached. They have a lot of things to contend with, as far as height and their guard play. We certainly need to bring our best game.”

After dropping a 39-37 contest to Buckfield on Dec. 14, Rangeley (19-1) has won 16 straight.

Rangeley sank No. 8 Seacoast Christian 56-23 in the quarterfinals and No. 4 Valley 50-29 in the semifinals.

Rangeley’s Winnie LaRochelle goes up for a shot past Valley’s Rianna Davis during a Class D semifinal game Wednesday morning at the Augusta Civic Center. (Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn) (Sun Journal photo by Andree Keh

“We’ve got to play 32 minutes (of basketball),” Deery said. “We’re going to have runs, they’re going to have runs. We want our runs to be longer than theirs, and we want to stop theirs.”

Rangeley has multiple weapons on offense, and on any given night one of the Lakers’ starting five can put up double-digit numbers. In the quarterfinal win over Seacoast, Winnie LaRochelle led Rangeley with 19 points, while Brooke Egan scored 12 and Olivia Pye added 10.

In the semifinal victory over Valley, it was Pye leading the way with 17 points, while LaRochelle added 11.

Rangeley will have no pushover in No. 3 Greenville (14-6), which has boasted a strong defense during the playoffs. The Lakers held Pine Tree Academy to just 16 points in the quarterfinals and beat No. 2 Temple Academy 50-29 in the semifinals.

Junior center Halle Pelletier has been Greenville’s most consistent scorer, averaging 12 points per game in the playoffs. She has also received help offensively from guard Morgan Noyes and guard Jessica Pomerleau.

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]aine.com

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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