PORTLAND – The whispers about being from a weaker conference followed Mountain Valley to Portland this year, so Falcons’ coach Dave Gerrish was asked if his players came down from Rumford with a chip on their shoulders, even though they’re the top-seeded team in the Western B tournament..

“Maybe they have one,” Gerrish said. “I don’t.”

The unbeaten Falcons have proven their worthiness as a top seed and defended the Mountain Valley Conference quite well, thank you, having beaten teams from the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and the Western Maine Conference this week at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Still, Gerrish doesn’t put much stock in the conference comparisons.

“To me, you put two teams out on the floor and you go play basketball and how we play and how we practice shouldn’t be a reflection of the conference we play in,” Gerrish said.

Today, the Falcons (20-0) face perhaps their toughest test, regardless of conference, in third-seed Falmouth (17-3) for the Western B championship (3:45 p.m., Cumberland County Civic Center). Like Mountain Valley, Falmouth has had a difficult time of living up to high tournament seedings since moving up to Class B in 2000 after winning three consecutive Class C state championships.

The Yachtsmen are led by Mr. Basketball finalist Bryant Barr, who has a scholarship to play for Division I Davidson next year. The 6-foot-5 swingman is averaging 21.5 points in the tournament and will present a match-up dilemma for the Falcons. Putting a guard on him risks having Barr do considerable damage in the low post. Having a big man guard him not only creates a mismatch with him in the perimeter but in the paint, where Falmouth’s 6-foot-4 junior Brady Frost and 6-foot-2 senior Ryan Gipson can create second and third chances on the offensive boards.

Barr isn’t a one-man show, though. Falmouth has cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs, knocking off Freeport and Cape Elizabeth by an average of 18 points, because guards Jon Forcella and Adam Packard have both had big games at the civic Center.

The Falcons have had to sweat out their two wins over Lincoln Academy and York (in double overtime), but they have been doing the little things that make the difference in playoff hoops. They’ve outrebounded their opponents by 50 percent and turned the ball over just 24 times in the two games. They’ve also enjoyed important contributions from their bench, particularly sixth man Byron Glaus (8 ppg), and junior Andy Shorey (21.5 ppg) has been a clutch go-to guy down the stretch.

“We definitely have something to prove,” Andy Shorey said. “We got upset last year in the first round. Every game has been close down here so far, and that’s been good for us.”


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