AUGUSTA — Maybe everyone else thought the Forest Hills boys basketball team would be back in the Class D state final. The Tigers themselves didn’t. Not early on, at least.

“This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for us,” coach Anthony Amero said.

Some rebuilding year. Parker Desjardins scored 27 points and had 17 rebounds en route to being named the tournament’s most outstanding player, and the top-seeded Tigers took down No. 3 Greenville 74-44 to win their second straight Class D South title Saturday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center.

The Tigers (21-0) will get to defend their state championship on the same floor Saturday against D North champion Machias. Even after losing valuable leaders like Brandon Gilboe and Jakob Rivas, the Tigers proved they were without a peer in the southern region.

“This felt more hard-earned,” said Forest Hills senior forward Hunter Cuddy, who hit five 3-pointers on his way to 21 points. “With losing three seniors, you’ve got to come out and bring it a lot. The hard work over the summer really felt good, and it paid off a lot.”

As the season was approaching, the Tigers wondered if they had all the pieces they’d need.

“We definitely had a lot of spots to fill,” Desjardins said. “But we had guys really step up and take control of those roles.”

The Tigers had every role accounted for Saturday afternoon. Facing a Greenville team looking for another upset after taking down No. 2 Rangeley, Forest Hills didn’t give the Lakers much room for hope. Greenville trailed only 17-15 with five minutes left in the second, but the Tigers knew their pressure and pace would prevail.

“We have a very intense practice schedule, so we knew we were going to be able to go for a lot longer,” Cuddy said. “We push ourselves a lot to be able to keep this up.”

Sure enough, Forest Hills began to pull away. It was 27-19 at halftime as the Tigers scored 10 of the last 14 points of the half. It was 48-33 at the end of the third. And 3-pointers by Cuddy and Braidan Welch helped Forest Hills open the fourth on a 12-2 run, and the rout was on.

“Sam Lane hit (three) threes in the first half, that kept them in it,” Desjardins said. “But the second half, they couldn’t run with us. If you keep pushing it, they’ll get tired, and that’s exactly what happened.”

The Tigers’ outside game was sharp — Forest Hills hit 12 threes — but they relied just as heavily on points in the paint. Over and over, the Tigers went after the Lakers’ interior defenders.

“We’re teaching that a lot,” Amero said. “Try to find that angle and draw the contact. We want contact. We know we’re a good foul shooting team if we can get there.”

Desjardins led the attack, carving his way around and through Greenville defenders for layups as the game wore on.

“He works every day, all day,” Cuddy said. “Basketball is his passion. … He loves getting better, he loves to push himself.”

It wasn’t a one-man effort, though. Mason Desjardins added 11 points for Forest Hills, and Joey Poulin and Jackman Daigle had key contributions on defense and on the glass.

“We played as a team today,” Parker Desjardins said. “Unlike Temple. That Temple game, we did not play as a team.”

That game was a 54-39 victory in the semifinals, one in which Parker Desjardins had to score 34 points to help Forest Hills stave off the upset, and one that got the Tigers to realize they weren’t going to be able to waltz to the title.

“People owned their stuff,” Amero said. “We had a couple of older players say ‘I was awful,’ ‘I shouldn’t have even been out there.’ … We had a chat about how we couldn’t be the Parker Desjardins show. People had to step up.”

There were no such concerns after the game Saturday. Just smiles over a job well done, and a big step closer to another state title.

“It feels awesome that there’s one more game,” Parker Desjardins said. “We’re ready to play.”


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