Almost immediately after the Forest Hills boys basketball was handed the Gold Ball on Saturday, the debate started.

Which undefeated Forest Hills team was better? The 2019 squad that just won the school’s third state championship since 2013 with a 70-65 victory of Schenck of East Millinocket at Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center? Or the 2015 team that also went undefeated and added a Gold Ball to the school’s collection?

Anthony Amero, the man who coached both Forest Hills squads, along with the 2013 state championship team, wouldn’t touch the question.

Forest Hills’ Hunter Cuddy has a private moment with the Gold Ball in the locker room after defeating Schenck in the Class D state championship game Saturday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“That debate is going on here,” Amero said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “All I can say is, the teams are talking about it… To me, they’re equal.”

This season’s Tigers point out that in the strictest sense, the ’15 team did not go undefeated, losing to Forest Hills alumni in the annual preseason game. The ’15 Tigers point out that they did it in the era of four classes, against a deeper pool of Class D teams.

Maybe the debate will be settled with a friendly pickup game once the snow has melted off the court at Jackman’s Pomerleau Park. For now, the Tigers and the towns of Jackman and Moose River are celebrating what was a dominant season for the Forest Hills boys basketball team.

The Tigers rolled through the regular season and Class D South tournament. In 18 regular season games, Forest Hills average margin of victory was 39.7 points. The Tigers won nine games — half their regular season schedule — by 40 ore more points. No regular season opponent came with 13 points of the Tigers. The closest game was a 62-49 win over Greenville on Jan. 10.

Forest Hills continued its dominance in the regional playoffs, winning three games by 52, 35, and 22 points. The state championship game was the first time an opponent stayed within 10 points of Forest Hills. Schenck was able to accomplish this by making 11 3-pointers and mounting a fourth quarter rally, cutting into Forest Hills’ 15-point lead after three quarters.

“I think the style of play is different with this team,” Amero said. “We let them go a little more. This group here, we let them run wild (on the court).”

After 21 games without a close game, Amero and his coaching staff were concerned about what could happen if the Tigers were in a nailbiter of a state championship game. Down two points after one quarter, Forest Hills rallied to open a 33-24 halftime lead over the Wolverines. The Tigers increased the lead to 54-39 entering the fourth quarter. In practices leading up to the state game, the Tigers focused on tight late game situations, and were ready when Schenck made a run late.

“We were really working on time and score situations, just to be thinking of that,” Amero said. “Exhaustion is not just physical, it’s mental when you’re in those games.”

The Tigers learned about mental toughness when they dealt with tragedy before the start of the season. Haper Hale, the infant sister of junior forward Jeremiah Hale, died last fall. The Forest Hills community rallied around the family, and the team wore Harper’s initials, HH, on their uniform throughout the season.

“It kind of felt like we had that guardian angel all year,” Amero said.

The victory celebration began in the Cross Insurance Center locker room, where the Tigers sang what became their unofficial theme song, “Country Roads.” It began with an early season game against Vinalhaven, when no pregame music was available. Senior Dalton Gregoire broke into “Country Roads,” and it stuck. As the Tigers belted out the tune Saturday after winning, they were joined by the Boothbay girls, who had arrived to play in the Class C championship and overheard the celebration.

Forest Hills stopped at Pizza Hut in Newport for a victory dinner, as it had after previous state championship wins. In Solon, 55 miles south of Jackman, the Tigers were met by emergency vehicles for an escort home. In Jackman, the team was greeted by a fireworks show bigger than the the Fourth of July, Amero said.

“The parade’s getting a little longer each time,” Amero said.

Forest Hills’ Parker Desjardins (14) looks skyward with the game net strung around his neck after the Tigers defeated Schenck in the Class D state championship game Saturday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

A spokesperson from the office of Senator Angus King, who spoke at Forest Hills’s graduation last year, called to offer the Senator’s congratulations, Amero said. The team will organize a visit to the state capitol in Augusta in the coming weeks. On Monday, the team took the gold ball trophy for a tour through the school building, visiting classrooms in the elementary and junior high wings of Forest Hills School.

The Tigers lose three seniors — Gregoire, Brandon Gilboe, and Jakob Rivas — to graduation. Starters Hunter Cuddy and Parker Desjardins return, and Amero said he has a talented group coming up from the junior high squad. Another undefeated season may be a tall order, but Forest Hills expects to remain competitive.

“The good news is, I’ve got seven eighth graders coming in,” Amero said. “The goal next year is to sneak in at the back end (of the tournament) and surprise some people in February.”

On Monday, some basketball players lamented that the season was over.

“These kids just love to play basketball,” Amero said. “They’re bummed that there’s no practice after school.”

 

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 

 


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under:

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.