AUGUSTA, Maine — Forest Hills’ quest to keep its streak of odd-year state championships alive ended as soon as it started.
The No. 4 Tigers, Class D champs in 2013 and 2015, ran out of gas against Seacoast Christian of South Berwick, which pulled away late for a 70-55 victory in quarterfinal action at Augusta Civic Center on Monday morning.
It was a four-point game heading into the fourth quarter, but the fifth-seeded Guardians (12-7) quickly extended the lead to nine on an opening-possession layup by Jesse Towne and a three-point play by Jet Archer.
Three-pointers by Forest Hills guards Kenn Vito Cruz and Parker Desjardins cut the deficit to 52-45 less than three minutes into the final frame, but Seacoast Christian coasted from there, hitting 15 of 21 free throws in the quarter.
“I think what happened was just our age and our size caught up with us, our physicality,” Tigers coach Anthony Amero said. “We just had a tough time rebounding today.”
Senior Sky Archer scored a team-high 20 points for Seacoast Christian. His younger brother Jet, a junior, totaled 18 points for the Guardians, who are coached by older brother Jaylan.
It took a third offensive option to help salt the game away. Towne scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth.
What Towne did in the fourth for the Guardians, Cruz (23 points) did for the Tigers in the first quarter, scoring seven of their eight points to keep them close.
“Kenn’s had a couple big games, but that’s by far the best he’s played all year,” Amero said. “He stepped up in the moment, and that’s what you want.”
He and Desjardins got the Tigers back into the game in the second and third quarters. Desjardins cut the deficit to one with a layup in the final minute of the first half, only to have Sky Archer to make one of his own for a 27-24 lead.
Desjardins, an eighth-grader standing just 5 feet, 1 inch, drained a 3 less than one minute into the third to tie the game up.
“For a 13-year-old to come in here and play that comfortable, and handle the ball — I don’t think he turned it over against their press,” Amero said. “He’s a legitimate player, but he’s put the time in.”
Desjardins gave Forest Hills the lead with a long 3, but it only lasted briefly. Sky Archer answered with a turnaround hook shot to regain the lead for good and later completed a three-point play to make it a two-possession game.
Cruz cut the lead to 39-38 with a 3 of his own with 1:37 left in the third, but the Guardians extended it to 43-39 heading into the fourth. That’s when Seacoast Christian flexed its muscles.