With the regular season just about to the halfway point, the story of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s Class A division is the resurgence of Mt. Blue. After six straight seasons at or near the bottom of the league, the Cougars are 6-2 and in first place in the Class A North Heal point standings.

Since reaching the regional championship game in 2012, longtime coach Jim Bessey’s final season before retirement, Mt. Blue has had six straight losing seasons. The Cougars best season in that span was a 3-15 mark in 2015-16. Over the last six seasons, Mt. Blue’s won-loss record was 9-99, with four one-win seasons.

This season’s improvement includes four wins of five points or less. The Cougars have one-point wins over Cony and Hampden, the two teams directly behind Mt. Blue in the standings.

Coach Travis Magnusson is Mt. Blue’s sixth boys basketball coach since Bessey retired. Since taking over the Cougars in May, Magnusson has instilled confidence that’s manifested itself in those close wins.

“We haven’t been used to winning, so I didn’t know how we would do in these situations. All these close games, we’ve been finding a way to win,” Magnusson said after Friday’s 63-58 win at Messalonskee. “We talked in the locker room, (and) we’ve been really resilient. When it’s close, we just find a way to win at the end. That’s a good thing for anybody.”

Senior Garrett Reynolds, who scored 24 points in the win at Messalonskee, said the Cougars are gaining confidence with each win.

“We always know we’re fighting and we always know we’re going to come out on top. In our brain, that’s what we think,” Reynolds said.

Mt. Blue is scheduled to play at Nokomis on Thursday.

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While some teams struggle to average close to 50 points per game, Forest Hills has no such offensive troubles. Through seven games, the Tigers average 47.5 points in the first half alone.

“We can score the basketball,” Forest Hills coach Anthony Amero said of his 7-0 team.

The Tigers won each of their first seven games by at least 27 points, with four wins coming by margins of 40 points or more. Averaging 77.4 points per game, Forest Hills’ season-low so far was 68 points in a win over Vinalhaven.

Obviously happy with the offense, Amero is even more pleased with a defense allowing just 37.4 points per game. No opponent has hit the 50-point mark against the Tigers yet.

“We’re just trying to play honest D,” Amero said. “We don’t make a lot of fouls. We don’t try to block a lot of shots.”

A key has been the return of sophomore guard Parker Desjardins, who missed most of last season with a broken foot. In a pair of recent wins over rival Valley, Desjardins scored 25 and 24 points. Amero also praised the speed of senior guard Jakob Rivas.

“Rivas is the quickest kid I’ve ever coached,” Amero said.

Saturday, Forest Hills will play a split doubleheader, hosting Greater Portland Christian at 2:30 p.m. and Buckfield that evening at 7:30. It will be a full day of basketball at Forest Hills, with the girls team hosting Valley at 1 and Buckfield at 6. This isn’t the first time the Tigers have played a pair of games in a day. It happened a few seasons ago when they took on North Haven and Highview Christian,although both of those games, a Forest Hills sweep, were played at the Augusta Civic Center. Fatigue is not a concern, Amero said.

“That worked out well,” Amero said. “When we play summer league basketball, we play two games a night all summer. The kids are in better shape now than they are in the summer.”

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Around the state: With Saturday’s 59-41 win over Ellsworth, Hermon extended its win streak to 30 games. The defending Class B state champion still has a long way to go to catch Valley’s state record, 101 straight wins… A big game in Class A South on Thursday is Brunswick at Leavitt. While Brunswick is 5-4, this will be another tough test for the undefeated Hornets (8-0)… Despite key losses to graduation, including Mr. Basketball 2018 semifinalists Max Mattson and Taylor Schildroth, George Stevens Academy keeps rolling. The three-time defending Class C state champion is 7-1, with a game at rival Bucksport (4-4) on Friday.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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