AUGUSTA —  Every day, Hunter Burpee walked past the trophy case at Southern Aroostook High, taking a good look at the 1991 Gold Ball from the Warriors’ last boys basketball title. Since childhood, he dreamed of ending his school’s long championship drought.

Saturday, the senior’s wish came true.

Burpee scored 31 points and pulled down 14 rebounds as Southern Aroostook defeated Forest Hills 82-61 for the Class D title at the Augusta Civic Center. The victory ended the Tigers’ 65-game winning streak, dating to 2019. Forest Hills (21-1) had not lost since a 78-67 loss to Seacoast Christian in the 2018 D South quarterfinals.

Burpee was a force inside and out, draining 3-pointers as effortlessly as he beat frustrated Forest Hills players for rebounds. The 6-foot center had 13 points as the first quarter, capped by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from just in front of the midcourt line that gave his team a 28-14 first quarter lead. And just when Forest Hills threatened to get back into the game, he scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

“I’ve walked by and seen it (the 1991 Gold Ball), and it’s been a dream since I was a kid,” said Burpee, whose brother Dylan added 14 points for the Warriors (19-1). “I’ve been wanting to come here and in this, and to do it, it feels amazing.

“They started to chip in there and make their shots, but we went back to our normal (man-to-man) defense, put our heads down and came out winning. It feels amazing to beat a team like that — fast, shooters. We came out and executed all we wanted, and won the Gold Ball.”


Earlier in the day, Southern Aroostook’s girls defeated Seacoast Christian for the Class D girls title at the Civic Center, giving the Warriors and their purple-clad fans a clean sweep.

It was a down ending for Forest Hills, whose vaunted defense had allowed fewer than 40 points 13 times. The Tigers allowed 53 in the first half alone Saturday to Southern Aroostook, which boasted four 6-footers in its lineup. Still, Mason Desjardins finished with 36 points, including 15 points on five 3-pointers.

Southern Aroostook’s Brennan Burpee and other teammates cheer from bench after beating Forest Hills in the Class D boys basketball state championship game Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“Obviously, they’re a much bigger team than we are and just as quick, so when somebody matches your speed …” Forest Hills coach Anthony Amero said. “We hadn’t seen a team move up and down the floor like that, so that’s tough. They were great in transition early and got a lot of easy shots, and that’s on us. And because of that, they got their rhythm shooting, and that put us on our heels a bit.”

The Warriors extended their advantage to 53-26 at the half, with seven different players finding the net during the frame.

Forest Hills refused to lie down, and scored 14 straight points in the third and early fourth quarters. Eleven points came from Desjardins, Forest Hills’ feisty 6-foot point guard, who did everything in his power to get the Tigers back into the game, diving for loose balls, flinging passes and hauling 3-point attempts at every opportunity.

“Desjardins has been in big games; this is his third state championship game, so he was looking to take over and lead his team and set people up,” Amero said. “Then we kinda got going, but again, it’s just tough to get the ball in with their size.”


Forest Hills had the ball back following a Desjardins bucket to open the fourth, but a charing call gave possession to Southern Aroostook, which scored six straight points, four from — who else? — Burpee. Forest Hills did not threaten again.

“We were mirroring each other, really,” Southern Aroostook coach Brett Russell, a member of that 1991 title team, said. “We’ve got a couple bigger kids than them who can get inside, but first and foremost, we’re pressure defense, and we’re looking to push tempo just like they do.”

Forest Hills junior Mason Desjardins takes a shot against Southern Aroostook during the Class D boys basketball state championship game Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Saturday’s game might have had the ultimate color clash: Southern Aroostook’s rabid fanbase brought the purple on the 175-mile trek from Dyer Brook to Augusta, while Forest Hills’ fans, traveling “only” 110 miles from Jackman, came out in their trademark orange hats, not to mention orange shirts and even tiger costumes.

Camden Porter scored 11 points for the Warriors, who defeated top-seeded Machias 44-27 on Feb. 26 to win the D North title. Blaine Nadeau had nine points for Forest Hills.

While Forest Hills settled for second Saturday, just playing again and returning to playoff hoops at the Civic Center was a victory of sorts after last season was disrupted by COVID-19.

“It was nice to get back in person — families, relatives getting together,” Amero said. “The whole tournament experience is more than just basketball. It’s down home days; I see people I haven’t seen all year and in this case, a couple years, where they came back and say hi.”

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