Class D South boys basketball is small in membership, with just 11 schools competing in the region. It also features some of the smallest schools in the state, with the largest enrollment in the region belonging to Greenville, at 82 students.

That size hasn’t prevented the region from doing big things come tournament time. Four of the last five Class D state champions emerged from D South, including last season’s undefeated Forest Hills squad from Jackman. This season, Forest Hills is once again among the favorites in the region, along with Greenville and Rangeley.

“I don’t see anybody who’s locked tight dominant,” Forest Hills coach Anthony Amero said.

Last season was Forest Hills’ third hold ball campaign in seven seasons. The Tigers graduated three key seniors from that 22-0 team, but return a talented group that can make another playoff run.

Junior guard Parker Desjardins entered the season just 54 points shy of 1,000 for his career. Senior forward Hunter Cuddy is 390 shy of 1,000 career points, and gives the Tigers an inside-out scoring threat. Freshman Mason Desjardins saw a lot of playing time as an eighth grader last season and is a talented 3-point shooter. Players like senior Jeremiah Hale, junior Joey Poulin, and sophomore David Lessard, who will take on more responsibilities, will need time to grow and develop, Amero said.

“We just need time to come together,” Amero said.

Rangeley won 12 games last season and reached the regional quarterfinals for the second straight season. Led by senior guard and all-conference player Nolan Boone the Lakers have the talent to advance in the postseason.

Senior Ian Lillis, junior Kenny Thompson, and sophomore Chase Carmichael return and give Rangeley scoring depth and athleticism. The Lakers will play an up-tempo brand of basketball.

Temple Academy made a surprising run to the regional final last season. This year, the Bereans will not sneak up on anybody. Temple played a tough preseason slate of games against teams in Class A and B.

“We took our lumps at the Skowhegan tournament. We played Lawrence and Waterville, and learned a lot,” coach Scott Corey said.

The Bereans return a strong group, led by senior guard Nathan Riportella and senior forward Stevo Kruta. Junior guard Marko Ajaz worked hard on his game in the offseason, Corey said, and has potential to be another offensive threat. Zack Wiles is a candidate to move from a reserve to a starting role.

A more consistent commitment to defense is a key to the Bereans improvement, Corey said.

New Valley head coach Mike Staples takes over a team that has reached the regional semifinals three consecutive seasons. The Cavaliers graduated three talented seniors, but have a group of returning veterans with the experience to make it back to the tournament at the Augusta Civic Center. Seniors Spencer Hunnewell, a guard, and forward Zach Walters return to the starting lineup. Junior Thomas Bishop could emerge as a key player.

“We have a new defense and new offense. We’re kind of getting back to basics,” Staples said. “We’ve got to set better screens and stay within our plays.”

GIRLS

Rangeley went 17-1 in the regular season last year and reached the D South final, but the Lakers will have to adjust to a new coach as Brittany DiPompo fills in for Heidi Deery, who will miss the season for personal matters. DiPompo, however, was an assistant for four years, and with key pieces like guard Olivia Pye, guard/forward Winnie LaRochelle and guard Lauren Eastlack back in the fold, there’s plenty in the way of continuity.

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

Forest Hills has a new coach as well in Steve Calderon, and he’s hoping to guide the Tigers to an improvement on last year’s 7-12 mark. Senior guards Marry-Lee Brown and Aislyn Obert will lead the way, and eighth-grader Grace Allen has impressed in her first year and will be the backup guard.

“We are likely going to be the smaller team in each of our games,” Calderon said. “The strength of our team lies between the ears. These girls are aggressive, smart and selfless.”

Valley, which ousted Forest Hills from the postseason last year, should be a playoff team again. Forwards Jillian Miller and Rianna Davis are three-year starters and will lead the way.

“We will be young but will play with a lot of energy,” coach Paul Belanger said. “We might struggle early being young and light on varsity experience, but I believe we will improve a lot over the course of the season.”

Temple will field an eight-player roster, with three of them being eighth-graders, but coach Joe Rossignol likes the team’s athleticism.

“I don’t have a single girl who can’t run for three quarters,” he said. “We need to maximize the fact that we’re small and quick.”

PREP

Kents Hill will once again play in the New England Prep School Athletic Conference’s Class C division. Augusta’s Mitch Tarrio is among the players returning to the Huskies lineup.

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