AUGUSTA — It was a game that looked almost unrecognizable to those who have grown familiar with the Forest Hills boys basketball team over the years.

It ended, though, with something very recognizable: the Tigers cutting down the Augusta Civic Center nets and hoisting a championship plaque they’ll be bringing almost 100 miles north.

Forest Hills defeated Valley 57-39 on Saturday to win its fourth consecutive Class D South title. It was a regional final win that saw the Tigers, known for their prolific scoring outputs, get it done with their defense to advance to face Southern Aroostook at 2:45 p.m. March 4 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

“Our defense really came through for us today,” said Forest Hills head coach Anthony Amero, whose Tigers had beaten Valley 90-83 and 66-56 in the regular season. “We tried some different defenses against them in our place and in Bingham, but we saved our best game plan against them for this game, and we got it done.”

Senior Mason Desjardins had a game-high 27 points and five rebounds for Forest Hills, and Cooper Daigle added 19 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. The Tigers also got 10 rebounds from Braidan Welch, eight from Blaine Nadeau and six from Hiram Logston to outrebound Valley 45-26.


Top-ranked Forest Hills (18-3) went up double digits early with Desjardins hitting a pair of clutch 3-pointers and Daigle dominating the paint. The Tigers led 24-9 with five minutes to go in the half after Desjardins’ fourth triple of the half forced a timeout from the Cavaliers.

“I think I’m always pretty confident in my shot, and I have the green light to shoot from pretty much anywhere,” Desjardins said. “Coach Amero has a lot of confidence in me, so I have to be responsible and make sure I’m not taking bad shots. Today, I was feeling it, and those ones went in.”

No. 2 Valley (13-8) rallied out of the timeout as Fisher Tewksbury keyed an 11-2 run before a Daigle layup right before the buzzer made it 28-20 at the half. After Forest Hills went up 32-20 shortly after the break, Tewksbury answered with seven straight points to pull the Cavaliers back within six.

Forest Hills junior forward Cooper Daigle, top left, swings the net as Tigers celebrate winning the Class D South championship Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

That basket, though, would be the last one Valley would get for some time. After a 10-0 Forest Hills run to end the third quarter, both teams went the first four minutes of the fourth without a basket. A 3-point frenzy from Harry Louis was too little, too late as Forest Hills won their seventh regional title in the past 11 tournaments.

“It never gets old; I think it gets better every time,” said Desjardins, who won his third regional title after previously doing so with Forest Hills in 2020 and 2022 (no state tournament in 2021). “Most schools don’t even get the chance to go to a regional title game a lot of years, so I’m very thankful for that.”

It was the third-lowest scoring output of the season for Forest Hills, which had reached the 60-point mark in all but four of its previous 20 games this season. Yet with a tweak to the Tigers’ game plan and Daigle’s dominance against Valley big man Jared Ricker on defense, the 57 points were more than enough.


“We played man-to-man, and I don’t think they saw it coming; we usually play a 1-3-1 or a 2-3 (zone defense),” Daigle said. “I fronted (Ricker) and kept him to making no baskets. I just kept him right behind me and put my hands up and made sure he couldn’t get the ball.”

Tewksbury had 22 points for Valley, and Louis added 13 points and six rebounds. Although the Cavaliers’ season came to an end with the loss, the future is plenty bright in Bingham with both of those players only freshmen and Ricker set to return next year for his senior season.

“We’re moving in an upward direction,” said Valley head coach Mike Staples. “We’re very young; I think we had three freshmen out on the floor at one time today, and two of them played the entire game. I cry for the seniors that I’m losing, but we’re excited about the future.”

In a game that was a clash of Class D South basketball royalty, it seemed as if all of Jackman and Bingham were at the Civic Center to support the Tigers and Cavaliers. For Forest Hills, the two-hour trip from the far reaches of the state to Augusta has always been an annual pilgrimage, especially so during the recent run of success.

Basketball, after all, is essential to the fabric of life in this border-crossing town. Sure, Jackman has beauty beyond comprehension in the warmer months, but in the winter, as Desjardins points out, there are only three things to do: snowmobiling, ice-fishing and basketball.

“There’s not much else to do, so basketball is everything,” Desjardins said. “It’s amazing how much people support us. Even if we won zero games this year, there would be just as many people up there in the stands cheering us on. We love it.”

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