Madison’s Shyre Bonito, center, is pressured by Forest Hills defenders Hiram Logston, left, and Leo Campbell, back to camera, during a Feb. 6 boys basketball game in Madison. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

If there is one certainty among the top teams of the Class D South boy and girls basketball tournament, it’s that no one is taking the field lightly.

“If you take anyone lightly, you’re probably going to be going home and watching (the tournament) on TV,” Valley girls basketball coach Gordon Hartwell said. “You better believe anyone can take you out down there, because anyone can.”

Forest Hills and Valley hold the top seeds in both boys and girls basketball, respectively.

The  Forest Hills  boys(15-3) have been the strongest program in Class D over the last 10 years, making six appearances the state final, winning four Class D titles. The Tigers reached the state final last season, falling 82-61 to Central Aroostook.

This season, Forest Hills has once again been on a roll, beating all of its Class D South competition during the regular season. All three of the Tigers’ losses came at the hands of Class C opponents. (Richmond, Carrabec and Madison).

In fact, the only element that has hurt the Tigers late in the season has been illness.


“We’re starting to hopefully turn a corner; we’ve actually gone an entire month without having not one practice with our entire squad. That’s been frustrating to say the least,” Forest Hills head coach Anthony Amero said. “The other day we had practice with all eight guys there. That was nice, for once.”

“We feel good where we’re at,” Amero continued. “I think having a few losses this year was a good thing for us in a way. It exposed some weaknesses and gave us some stuff on tape to look at, do some self-reflection and go, ‘hey, we’ve got to get better in this category, that category.’ A big one for us is protecting the ball. I think sometimes when you win a lot of games, you get a little too overconfident.”

Mason Desjardins has not only been the top scorer for Forest Hills this season, but one of the top scoring threats in all of Class D. Desjardins has deadly shooting ability but has also shown the knack for driving the lane when called upon. With Desjardins garnering plenty of defensive attention, Forest Hills has managed to surround Desjardins with one of the stronger supporting casts of recent memory, particularly Braidan Welch and Cooper Daigle.

“It’s been a big (key) for us, because we have four people averaging double-digit (points),” Amero said. “That’s happened in years we’ve gone far (in the tournament), but last year that wasn’t the case. (Daigle) has been really solid inside, and we really haven’t had a post presence for a number of years. Now we’ve got that kid we can go to and open things up so if people double-up Mason up front, you’re going to pay for that, because he’s going to dump it to him. Cooper has had multiple games with over 20 points. That’s been a big asset for us we didn’t have a year ago.”

Amero added that Blaine Nadeau has provided a spark for the Tigers with his shooting.




Like Forest Hills, No. 2 Valley (11-7) has been on a roll. With the exception of two losses to the Tigers, the remainder of Valley’s losses have come at the hands of Class C opponents.

“We’re doing pretty well,” Valley head coach Mike Staples said. “We’re looking pretty decent. A few bruises and things like that, but we’re excited to get in the tournament and get going.”

Harry Louis and Fisher Tewksbury have been Valley’s top two scorers throughout the season. Both have scored 20 points or more in multiple games this season for the Cavaliers.

“We’re still really young,” Staples said. “Some of our best players are our younger players. They started last year as eighth graders, basically carried the team. This year, they’ve stepped it up even more, seeing so much maturity out of them… The stats and scoring have been pretty similar, but I’ve been happy with the team growth this year.”

Beyond Forest Hills and Valley, there is steep drop-off in record, with Greenvillle (6-12) the No. 3 seed, Seacoast Christian (6-12) No. 4, Temple Academy (7-11) No. 5 and Islesboro (8-8) No. 6. After starting the season 1-9, the Bereans have had a late season surge, going 6-2 in their last eight games.


“Seacoast can be really scary,” Amero said. “Seacoast is extremely well coached. Coach (Lee) Petrie does a great job. He’s got (Isiah) Cardinal, he primarily handles the ball for them, can shoot the three, can get to the rack. A good player.”

In Class D South girls, No. 1 Valley (14-4) has won 9 of its last 12 games. All four of the Cavaliers’ losses have come at the hands of Class C competition. The Cavaliers have experience of being a team that has been upset. As the No. 1 seed last year, Valley fell to No. 4 Forest Hills in the semifinal round.

“We’re a young team,” Hartwell said. “I think our young players are coming along nicely. Maybe a piece of (last year’s upset), we were rolling a lot of (Class D opponents) and I don’t think it did us any favors. We tried to toughen things up this year. We had two games against Richmond, a game against Carrabec, a game against Madison. We tried to make it so the regular season would be more challenging so that we might be a little more focuses at the end. (The team) has worked hard, but obviously there’s a long way to go.”



Madeline Hill has consistently been Valley’s top scorer throughout the season, but Brielle Hill, Kirsten Bigelow and Riley Clark have provided production as well.


“We shoot pretty well,” Hartwell said. “We’re not afraid to play defense. We’ll work hard. Every time we’re on the court, we’re trying to stretch. Having a consistent effort (is key). If you want to be at a higher level, you have to be consistent and you have to come out the same, in my opinion, whether you’re playing someone you think you would beat or you’re playing someone you think could be you or be a more challenging game.”

After upsetting Valley, Forest Hills (12-6) enters the tournament this season as the No. 2 seed. The Tigers have won seven of their last 10 games.

“The girls have been working tirelessly throughout the summer, throughout the fall, they have put so much work to try to get to where they are nowadays,” Forest Hills head coach Bob Manix said. “I couldn’t be happier for them.”

Grace Allen has been the top scorer and rebounder for the Tigers, with Allie Nunning and Carli Fergon contributing as well.

“A lot of the juniors have stepped up,” Manix said. “Not necessarily taken control, but have taken the next step, trying to get the team to where we need to be. I’ve got a lot of (veteran) girls who will take the time to show the younger players how to do a play better, or to shoot better. A lot of teamwork and everyone working together to make the team better.”

Defending Class D champ Seacoast Christian (9-9) is the No. 3 seed, with Pine Tree Academy (9-8) at No. 4 and Vinalhaven (6-8) No. 5. The remaining three teams in the tourney — North Haven, Greenville and Islesboro — have a combined 10-39 record.

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