Despite all the noise and mayhem in the background, you could hear it every once in a while during the game. The words were “one,” or “one more.”
That small dynamic describes the kind of chemistry and unselfishness the Forest Hills boys basketball team, its seniors in particular, has developed over the years.
“That’s a little inner working which means ‘I’m open,’” said Forest Hills coach Anthony Amero. “They know to get that [kid the] ball. They don’t even look. We had that on a couple key layups today. That’s just a credit to those kids playing a lot of ball in the offseason together.”
The Tigers’ hard-charging, attacking, all-for-one style was on full display on Saturday afternoon at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
Forest Hills of Jackman capped off an undefeated season, running a resilient Schenck of East Millinocket ragged on the way to a 70-65 victory in the Class D state championship game.
“It’s awesome, the best feeling ever,” senior Dalton Gregoire said after the Tigers hoisted the gold ball and posted their 22nd consecutive victory.
Four players scored at least 15 points for Forest Hills, which dictated a frenetic pace to win the program’s second state title in the last five years and its third overall.
“It’s as unselfish a group as you could ever ask for,” Amero said.
Sophomore Parker Desjardins went 7-for-9 from the foul line in the fourth quarter to help secure the win and joined senior Dalton Gregoire with a team-high 18 points each for the Tigers. Seniors Brandon Gilboe and Jakob Rivas contributed 15 points each as Forest Hills shot 42 percent (25-for-59) from the field. Hunter Cuddy added four points and seven rebounds.
“We’re very good friends, we are unselfish,” Gilboe said.
“We pass it around a lot. We know if you’re not open and the other guy is, he’s going to have a better shot so you do it, you pass him the ball,” he added.
North champion Schenck battled to the bitter end, but succumbed to foul trouble, frequent turnovers and the inability to guard the quicker Tigers. Coach Darrick Thompson’s Wolverines wound up 14-8.
Schenck did set two state final records in defeat as freshman Kaden Hannan’s six 3’s established a Class D mark while the Wolverines’ 11 shots from beyond the arc is the best in a game, regardless of class.
Schenck had difficulty guarding the smaller, but tireless Forest Hills guards who forced the issue all game by attacking the rim off the dribble and battling on the boards. The Tigers outscored the Wolverines 18-3 from the foul line.
“They’re athletic and they understand how to play that style,” Thompson said. We want to play that style, we’re just not as good at it.
“We don’t play anybody [else] like that,” he conceded, speaking about the fast-paced approach.
Freshman Kaden Hannan led the offense for Schenck, drilling six 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 21 points. Senior Travis Thompson, the coach’s son, contributed 20 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots, while sophomore Tyrone Davis posted 10 points, four rebounds, four blocks and three assists.
Isaac Adams provided six points, five rebounds and six assists.
Schenck finished with 26 turnovers and even though Forest Hills had 22 of its own, the breakneck pace favored the Tigers.
“We just try to run, run and push the ball up the court,” Gregoire said. “We’ve been doing it for a long time.”
Forest Hills made its first big push in the second quarter, outscoring Schenck 12-2 over 3 1/2-minute span to turn a one-point deficit into a 26-18 advantage midway through the period. The Tigers never trailed after that.
Forest Hills later rattled off seven unanswered points to make it a 13-point game before taking a nine-point edge into the locker room at halftime.
Schenck briefly got back within seven points early in the second half, but Forest Hills answered with a 10-2 burst that put them in charge 46-31 and the Wolverines could not overcome the deficit despite a late rally.
What turned out to be the clinching run came after Travis Thompson scored on a drive to the hoop and hit a 3-pointer to make it 36-29 only 89 seconds into the third quarter.
However, Forest Hills came back with two Rivas free throws and Gregoire’s offensive rebound basket. Andrew Goulas scored from the lane for Schenck, but Rivas cut along the baseline for a hoop, then stuck a 3-pointer and Gregoire added a foul shot to restore a 46-31 advantage with 4:04 left in the period.
Schenck played cohesively down the stretch and used a late 6-0 run to get within 65-60, but the Tigers made five of six free throws to hang on.
“I’m just glad there wasn’t another five minutes,” Amero said.