February 19

Western Class D boys’ basketball: Valley knocks off No. 1 Forest Hills

The Cavaliers pull away in the fourth quarter, securing a spot in the regional final.

By Travis Lazarczyk
Morning Sentinel

AUGUSTA — Jordan Gillespie considers himself a decent free-throw shooter. Wednesday morning at the Augusta Civic Center, Gillespie wasn’t at his best, but Forest Hills kept sending him to the line in the fourth quarter and he made enough shots to help No. 4 Valley take a 50-40 win in a Western Class D boys’ basketball semifinal.

Valley (16-4) will play No. 2 Hyde (18-2) in the regional final Saturday. Top-seeded Forest Hills, the defending Class D state champion, ends the season at 17-3.

Forest Hills beat Valley twice in the regular season and had won its last four games against its rival from Bingham.

“It’s tough to keep beating the same team over and over. They played well, and they know us well,” Forest Hills Coach Anthony Amero said.

“Our boys were really confident this time,” Valley Coach Luke Hartwell said. “Our boys had to get over that hump that first half. I told the boys, as long as we start hitting some shots, we’re going to be OK.”

The game was tied 30-30 early in the fourth quarter before Valley took control with back-to-back 3-pointers by Cody Laweryson and Dylan Belanger.

“Anthony (Amero) is one of the best coaches in the state, in my opinion. They’ve just got so much experience,” Hartwell said. “Cody and Dylan hit those two consecutive 3s, and that gave our team confidence, big-time.”

From there, all of Valley’s offense came at the foul line, where Gillespie made nine of the Cavaliers’ 14 fourth-quarter free throws. With each foul shot, Gillespie thought the same thing.

“I’ve got to make these and put this game away. Over and over. Got to make ‘em,” said Gillespie, who finished with 14 points.

“We take 25 (free throws) at the end of every practice, and I make sure, this time of season, we get a lot of shots up,” Hartwell said. “The reality is, in Augusta, it comes down to limiting your turnovers, making your easy shots and making your free throws. And that’s what it came down to tonight.”

Valley was 21 for 30 at the line while Forest Hills was just 6 for 17, including 0 for 4 in the fourth quarter.

“We haven’t been shooting the ball well the last couple of weeks, and we didn’t hit at the line. You can’t win big games when you don’t hit foul shots,” Amero said.

“They took away the inside very well, and we couldn’t hit outside shots today. We struggled from the perimeter.”

Valley opened the game strong at both ends of the court, and led 10-2 midway through the first quarter. Teagan Staples, Collin Miller and Cody Beane did a nice job defending the Tigers’ big men, Ryan Petrin and Tanner Daigle. The 6-foot-3 duo combined to score just six points.

“The past two games (against Forest Hills) we haven’t come out strong, but today we came out strong and eventually pulled away,” Gillespie said.

The Tigers heated up at the end of the second quarter and closed the first half on a 7-0 run to take a 21-20 lead. The teams traded the lead in the third quarter, and Matt Turner’s 3-pointer with 1:07 left game Forest Hills a 30-28 lead going into the fourth.

Turner, who sat much of the second quarter after picking up his third foul, led the Tigers with 11 points. Belanger scored 10 for Valley.

Travis Lazarczyk can be contacted at 861-9242 or at:

tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com

Twitter: TLazarczykMTM

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