MADISON — In any other season, the central Maine Class C/D boys basketball semifinal between No. 3 Forest Hills and No. 2 Madison would become one of those games 1,000 people attended and 10,000 would swear had been there. Only with near-empty gyms statewide due to the coronavirus pandemic, any claims of attendance will be met with a skeptical glance.

In the regular season, Forest Hills and Madison split a pair of close games, and Tuesday’s tiebreaker was the best of the trio of contests between these Somerset County not-quite rivals (Madison plays in Class C, while Forest Hills is in Class D). Ahead by a point with 3.2 seconds left, Madison’s Vern Worthen went to the line with a chance to give his team a little breathing room. He missed both, but the Bulldogs never gave Forest Hills a chance to shoot the game-winner. Cameron Cobb stole the initial outlet pass off the rebound, dribbled to the corner, and tossed the ball across the court as time ran out, giving Madison an 82-81 win.

Madison will face either Winthrop or Spruce Mountain in the tournament championship game Friday.

“Game over,” Madison big man Cameron Melancon said when asked what he thought when Cobb intercepted the pass in the closing seconds. “I’m just happy we could pull away with the win.”

Madison’s defensive game plan was built around containing Parker Desjardins. The Forest Hills senior guard scored 42 points in his first game against the Bulldogs this season and 36 in the rematch. A 2,000-point scorer, Desjardins was named a finalist for Mr. Maine Basketball last week. The Bulldogs attacked Desjardins with a triangle zone defense, sending at least two players to him every time he got the ball. The goal was to prevent Desjardins from easily going to his right, Melancon said.

Desjardins finished with 10 points, well below his season average of 42.4 points per game, but Madison quickly learned the crafty guard was just as good at getting his teammates involved in the offense as he was scoring.

While not open for a shot, Desjardins found plenty of teammates who were. His younger brother Mason, a sophomore, scored a game-high 35 points, including seven 3-pointers. Joey Poulin added 13 points for the Tigers, while Jackman Daigle scored eight and Braden Welch came off the bench to score nine.

“We changed it up a little bit in the second half, kind of reversed our triangle in the second half because they were hurting us inside in the first half. Just because of (Parker’s) penetration,” Madison coach Jason Furbush said. “He sees the floor so well. I think we slowed him down a little bit. That’s all you can wish for with him. Those Desjardins boys are so tough. They hit shots, they’re great kids and great basketball players. Parker creates everything. He deserves every accolade that he gets.”

Madison’s Cameron Cobb shoots the ball over Forest Hills defenders Joey Poulin, left, and Parker Desjardins during a central Maine tournament game Tuesday in Madison. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Facing a zone defense was nothing new to Forest Hills, but coach Anthony Amero felt his team still needed time to get its bearings.

“I think we had some fumblitis early in the first quarter. We played a little tight, which is unusual for us, but I think we knew what was at stake. Their size, we haven’t seen a lot of that size, and it took us a little bit to adjust,” Amero said. “I thought we got the ball to where it needed to go as the game went on. We kind of figured it out. I thought Mason had a tremendous night. I thought Joey (Poulin) and Jackman (Daigle), I thought those guys played extremely well.”

The Tigers led by by one after one quarter, by one at the half, 40-39, and the game was tied 61-61 after three quarters. By the fourth quarter, Madison’s size advantage was beginning to wear down Forest Hills. Melancon scored eight of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.

“Pound it in the paint on them. They’re not very big inside. That’s pretty much it,” Melancon, who also grabbed 10 boards, said.

Added Furbush: “We tried to slow it down a bit more. We’re not a team that can really slow it down too much, but we wanted to limit their possessions, and I think we did a better job in the second half, and we did a great job getting it in to the big guy. A great team win.”

A Callen Franzose (23 points) free throw with 1:15 to play gave Madison a 78-71 lead, it’s largest lead of the game. Mason Desjardins hit a three with 48 seconds left to cut Madison’s lead to 78-74. After Worthen made a pair of foul shots to push the Bulldogs lead back to six, 80-74, Welch made a three to cut it to 80-77 with 27 seconds left.

13148# 01hoops MADISON, MAINE March 9, 2021. Forrest Hills Joey Poulin, left, and Madison’s Cameron Melancon (cq) battle for a rebound at Madison High School in Madison, Maine Tuesday March 9, 2021. (Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel) Buy this Photo

It went like that a few more possessions. The Bulldogs made one of two free throws, and the Tigers would make a shot to stay within striking distance. With Madison ahead 82-79, Mason Desjardins missed a three, but Poulin grabbed the rebound and scored on the putback to make it a one-point game.

“It comes down to a couple possessions here and there. I think if we box out a little better throughout the game, they don’t get so many second shot opportunities,” Amero said.

Parker Desjardins completed his career with 2,083 points. The Mr. Maine Basketball winner will be announced in a virtual ceremony on March 19.

“It’s a shame it ever has to end. It’s a double shame it ends this way. I’m just very proud of him. Like I’ve said all along, there’s no question to me he’s been the best basketball player in the state the last two years. He’s going to finish his last three seasons at 55-2,” Amero said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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