BANGOR — Ask Jakob Rivas how tall he is, and you get the chuckle of someone who’s been asked that many times before.

“I’m pushing 5-7,” he said.

He plays bigger, however. And with the Forest Hills boys basketball team looking to take command in Saturday’s Class D state championship game, he played the biggest role in giving the Tigers the lead for good in what became a 70-65 victory.

Forest Hills’ Jakob Rivas (10) gets fouled by Schenck’s Travis Thompson (32) in the Class D state championship game Saturday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“He has just got wheels,” coach Anthony Amero said. “He’s the kid that goes everywhere.”

Forest Hills entered the second quarter trailing 16-14, and thanks to Rivas playing in line with his label, finished it leading 33-24. The senior forward indeed was everywhere, grabbing five rebounds and picking up two steals in the quarter alone, all before then turning in an 11-point third quarter that helped give the Tigers a 54-39 advantage going into the third.

It was all part of a 15-point, seven-rebound, three-steal effort for Rivas, who Amero said has served as a sparkplug for the Tigers all season — and who was one again on the biggest stage of the year.

“I wish he had four more years with me,” Amero said. “Because he’s figured out how to play ‘D,’ that kid has.”

“Basketball’s a game of runs, and when anyone feels it, it just keeps going,” Rivas said. “I didn’t even notice I had those stats. It’s just the heat of the game, really.”

The Tigers needed to make a push in the second quarter, and Rivas came through. He had a putback 44 seconds into the quarter to put Forest Hills up 17-16 — erasing Schenck’s last lead of the game — and then followed up a pair of rebounds with a pair of steals, taking the last theft in for a breakaway basket that completed a 12-2 run to start the quarter and made it 26-18 with 4:10 to go.

“When I play defense, I’m really fast,” he said. “If I can get in their heads … if that means playing a little bit harder, I’m going to do it.”

Amero said Rivas’ work extended beyond the stats.

“He’s a very smart kid, so he anticipates things well. Even ones he doesn’t steal, he causes a lot of errant passes,” he said. “They probably had four at the end of the quarter that went out of bounds, where he just got in that passing lane, and that caused the higher pass to go out of bounds. He doesn’t get credit for the steal, but we all know why we got that ball.”

Schenck went from outrebounding Forest Hills 9-7 in the first quarter to losing the battle on the boards 12-7 in the second, and managed only one steal in the second quarter to Forest Hills’ four. Wolverines coach Darrick Thompson acknowledged the game turning with the defensive intensity – and Rivas’s role in spearheading that change.

“He was big off the ball,” he said. “We did not rotate, we were overzealous on the ball side, we neglected weak side.”

Rivas’ teammates took notice, as throughout the second quarter he consistently beat taller and stronger players to the ball.

“He’s a scrapper. He works so hard,” said sophomore guard Parker Desjardins, who scored 18 points in the victory. “He’s been small his whole life. … He’s used to playing against bigger guys, and he plays so much bigger than he is. In middle school, he was a (power forward). He’s used to it.”

Rivas demonstrated his value on the offensive side in the third quarter with 11 of the Tigers’ first 17 points, burning the Wolverines with everything from 3-pointers to cuts to the basket.

“Rivas killed us on the backside,” Thompson said.

Rivas’ speed was an asset for Forest Hills all postseason. He led a fast break barrage in the semifinals against Greenville, and then used his quickness to thwart whatever pressure Schenck tried to apply.

“He’s one of our key ball-handlers,” Amero said. “He’s a human press-breaker. He’s so quick.”

That aggressiveness came with a price, however, and with 6:29 remaining in the game and Forest Hills up 57-45, he took his fifth foul. The Wolverines capitalized on his absence, whittling the lead down to five at 65-60 with 1:50 left before Forest Hills held on.

He wasn’t on the court when the final seconds ticked off. Rivas, however, was all smiles after the game.

“It feels amazing,” he said. “We worked hard over the summer, over the fall. Getting this far. It’s a crazy feeling. And winning it isn’t easy.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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