In the middle of the week, while preparing his Forest Hills High School boys basketball team for the Class D state championship game, coach Anthony Amero stopped thinking about Central Aroostook for a little bit. Instead, he watched the tape of his team’s victory over Valley in the Western Class D final.

“(Central Aroostook) is very well-coached. You can see that,” Amero said. “I watched that D West final tape, and I thought ‘You know, we’re pretty darn good, too.’ ”

Forest Hills (19-2) will face Central Aroostook (17-5) at 2:45 p.m. Saturday at the Bangor Auditorium. This is the second straight Class D final appearance for Forest Hills, while Central Aroostook has won four state championships in the last eight seasons, most recently in 2011.

Forest Hills lost last season’s state championship game to a very strong Jonesport-Beals team. That was a learning experience.

“We’ve been there before,” senior Evan Worster, a semifinalist for Mr. Basketball, said. “We know what to expect.”

Added Amero: “Last year, we were overwhelmed. You could see it. This year, the kids are more confident. They think they can win.”

The Tigers are led by Worster, who averaged just over 19 points per game in the regular season. In the playoffs, however, as Worster has been tightly guarded by opponents, he’s deferred offensively to his teammates. Senior forward Derick Ouellette averaged 20 points per game and was named MVP of the Western Class D tournament. Sophomore Brandon Ouellette scored 19 points against A.R. Gould in the semifinals. Sophomore forward Ryan Petrin had 17 points in a quarterfinal win over Richmond and 11 in the regional final against Valley.

“Last year, (Worster) put us on his back and he got us there. This year, he’s about making us a better team and getting back to states,” Amero said. “Evan’s not about Evan. Evan’s about winning.”

Central Aroostook coach Tim Brewer said he’s impressed with the Tigers’ hustle.

“Worster is a quality player and the Ouellette brothers are good players, too,” Brewer said. “They’re a scrappy team. They get after it. I’ve been impressed with their quickness.”

Matt Turner rounds out the starting five for Forest Hills, all of which return from last season’s state runner-up squad.

Central Aroostook sputtered at the end of the regular season, losing four of its last five games, and almost made an early exit from the Eastern Class D tournament. The No. 3 seed, Central Aroostook trailed No. 14 Schenck by 13 points heading into the fourth quarter of their preliminary-round game. The Panthers rallied and won the game in overtime.

“I thought our kids really found themselves that game and realized they could play harder than they had been,” Brewer said.

No team in the state was tested in the playoffs like Central Aroostook, which needed overtime to win regional semifinal and final games over Washburn and Hodgdon, respectfully. The 58-55 win over Hodgdon was another come-from-behind win. The Panthers trailed 30-24 at the half.

Forward Stephen Decker is the Panthers’ top offensive threat. Decker averaged 24 points per game in the Eastern Maine tournament, but he’s not the only weapon Central Aroostook has. Guard Jon Stiles scored 23 points against Washburn in the semis and guard Chandler Brewer scored 27 points in the quarterfinals against Katahdin.

Forwards Zach McClung and Spencer Garrison are also scoring threats for the Panthers.

“Everyone’s got the green light to shoot,” Amero said of the Panthers. “They’re a tough matchup because you have to respect the 3-point shot of four of them.”

A Forest Hills win would snap Eastern Maine’s nine year hold on the Class D Gold Ball. The last state champion from Western Maine was Valley in 2003.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242
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