WALES — There have been times this season when playing from behind early was the norm for the Mountain Valley boys’ basketball team.
“At the beginning of the season, we’d go down 7-0, 8-0 or 8-2,” Falcons coach Tom Danylik said. “We’ve changed that the last two weeks. It’s nice playing from in front. It takes the pressure off.”
The Falcons took the early lead Saturday and maintained it in a 56-39 win over Oak Hill. Though the Raiders stayed within reach, Mountain Valley never allowed them to seize the momentum.
“Usually we come out a little slow,” senior Jacob Theriault said. “Today, we came out pretty strong. Usually, we get a run and don’t sustain it very well, but we sustained it in the second half.”
Coming off a loss against Dirigo, the Falcons played strong from the start and never let down.
“Playing from behind taught us a lesson,” Danylik said. “We’d come out of the gate and want to get going and we’d throw the ball away. Now I think we have a little more patience and get to the rhythm of our offense better.”
Theriault led the Falcons (7-2) with 30 points. Dominic Haines added 10 for the Falcons. Though the Raiders’ size posed some problems in the paint, hot perimeter shooting countered that.
“I was feeling good,” said Theriault, who hit a trio of 3s and always seemed to have a response for any Oak Hill run. “I had one other game when I felt pretty good like that but this game I was feeling like that. I thought they did a good job switching guys on me. I give (Kelsey Lamothe) a lot of credit. He played me pretty tough.”
Trever Samson and Luke Washburn led the Raiders (5-5) with nine points each. Parker Asselin added eight.
“We got out of our set,” Oak Hill coach Tom Smith said. “We’ve been playing real well. The guys are learning to win. We didn’t win last year. It’s all new. We’re coming off a tough win at Monmouth, but to go back-to-back is not easy in the Mountain Valley Conference, but we can at least compete.”
The Falcons jumped out to the quick lead in the first. Leading 8-6, Theriault hit two free throws and then drilled a 3. Theriault and Ryan Nichols traded hoops with Washburn and Samson free throws to finish the first up 17-10.
The Raiders trimmed the lead to four on a 3 from Sam Morin, but a Theriault jumper and a rebound by Colin Merrill had the lead to eight. Oak Hill cut the lead to six two more times in the quarter but couldn’t get closer. The Falcons used a 9-2 run late in the half to build a 32-22 lead.
Adam Volkernick finished off a Sean Murphy pass. Then Theriault hit two from the foul line to make it 27-17. After a jumper from Asselin, Theriault hit a short jumper and Haines sank a 3 for a 32-19 lead.
“We talk about that a lot, about how basketball is a game of runs,” Danylik said. “When the other team starts to make theirs, we need to squash it and make our own. We’ve been trying to work on that the last couple of games. I thought tonight we did a good job of that.”
Oak Hill started the third with a jumper from Dalton Burns, but the Falcons answered with 10 straight points. Theriault had all 10 as Mountain Valley made it 42-24.
“Theriault is that good,” Smith said. “He scored 30 points and we only had 39 ourselves. I didnt’ realize how good he is. I put one of my best defenders on him, Kelsey Lamothe. He did a great job, but he hit great shots and it was hard to stop him. He’s a great player. We had to try to contain him and we didn’t.”
Oak Hill got baskets by Washburn and Lamothe late in the third but only produced two other baskets from the floor the rest of the way.
“It’s hard because the kids will sometimes revert to last year when things don’t go our way, but they don’t stop playing,” Smith said.