AUGUSTA — The oohs and aahs turned to groans and winces, not suddenly but with the slow burn which accompanies witnessing something uncomfortable firsthand.

A 33-0 second quarter for No. 1 seed and unbeaten Forest Hills evolved into a 55-0 run encompassing more than two full quarters of play Saturday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center, the knockout blows in the Tigers’ 86-29 win over No. 8 Seacoast Christian in the Class D South regional quarterfinals.

When Forest Hills senior Hunter Cuddy splashed four second-quarter 3-pointers — the last of which launched from at least five feet beyond the arc — the crowd cheered and clapped with vigor as Cuddy reached the 1,000-point benchmark for his career. And when leading scorer Parker Desjardins (24 points) time and again sliced, slashed and whipped his way over, under and around the five Guardian defenders on the floor, fans marveled at the grace and beauty with which Desjardins played the game of basketball.

“Every place we’ve gone, even if they’re not going to make the playoffs, we’re their state championship game,” Forest Hills coach Anthony Amero said of his reigning Class D state title team. “Where we’ve gone this year, there have been good crowds and it’s been good for our kids. They get challenged, even if it’s only for the first four or five minutes.

“That’s helped our kids — they know everybody’s up for them when they walk in the door. That’s helped them get focused and realize you can’t just step in and mail one in any night.”

Seacoast’s Ethan Huss’ basket with 2:47 left in the first quarter seemed largely insignificant at the time, cutting the Forest Hills advantage to a still commanding 23-10. Nobody could have predicted it would take another 17 minutes, 31 seconds of game time until John Lorentz would make a pair of free throws that finally added to the Guardians’ tally.

By that time, Forest Hills had rattled off 55 consecutive points — more points than five Class A North girls teams scored in their entire games, respectively, Friday night on the very same court.

The adulation which once greeted the efficiency with which the Tigers found success had been replaced by unease.

Justification is a funny thing. Sometimes it’s accepted wholly, sometimes it’s hollow. For players who just go out and do what they like to do most — simply play the game the only way they know how — justification can be cliche-ridden.

Cuddy spoke in a plethora of cliches following Saturday’s rout, ripping off tried and true axioms of the sports world.

“Treat every team like they’re a good team.”

“Always keep motivation up.”

“Play to the highest level you can.”

“Take every game like it could be your last game.”

“Leave everything out on the court at all times.”

Beyond platitudes, there are rules the Tigers must adhere to.

If Forest Hills leads by more than 20, there’s no more full-court pressure. They go deep to the bench in the second half of a blowout. Man-to-man defense is replaced by a 2-3 zone. And 3-point attempts are an absolute no-no.

“We had an eighth-grader jack one up, so we took him out real quick,” Amero said.  “He learned a lesson today that we weren’t going to do that to the opponent. “

Amero knows there is a delicate balance for a team averaging more than 80 points per game and competing against some of the smallest schools and programs facing the tallest of obstacles each night.

One of the most affable personalities in Maine high school sports, Amero wants balance between respecting opponents while not sacrificing his program’s own respect for the game as a whole.

“It’s difficult. When you’re a run and gun team, our whole premise is to put points on the board,” Amero said. “But between my seven years at Messalonskee and 23 years here, I’ve never hit a 100 on anybody. I’ve seen that happen a lot more this year (elsewhere). We’ve had a lot of nights where we could have put up that many. We’ve had nights where we’ve put up 40 in the first quarter.

“In a lopsided game it’s tough, because you don’t want to get out of rhythm for the next game, either. We don’t ever want to be rude to anybody at the same time. We try to coach it up so we’re not doing that.”

Amero remembers being on the bench against a rival that routinely hit his Tigers up for 100. One can only presume he’s talking about that Valley juggernaut from the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“We try to be respectful of the opponent, because I’ve been around long enough to know that what goes around comes around,” Amero said. “We had a certain school that used to put up 100-plus on me in the early years, so we try not to do that to anyone else.”

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