PORTLAND – Mountain Valley will be making history the moment it takes the Cumberland County Civic Center floor.

It will be the first Class B championship held in the Portland building, and no one will appreciate that fact more than Andy Shorey and his teammates.

“I like it here a lot more than Bangor,” Shorey said after the Falcons clinched their second straight Western B title Saturday night.

That’s understandable considering the Falcons haven’t been beaten in Portland since the tournament moved there last year, while Bangor was the site of their greatest disappointment, their loss to Maranacook in the state title game.

The road to redemption began not long after that loss, as the Falcons rededicated themselves to finishing the job this year.

“Waking up every morning at 7:30, two practices every day during the summer, lifting. We put a lot of work in,” said Shorey, who averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds and picked up his second straight Pete Harnois Award as the tournament’s outstanding player.

A dozen members of the team had some other business to take care of during the fall, winning a Gold Ball in football, before redirecting their attention to the hardwood.

The wear and tear of the long football season showed at times during the winter, though. For the first time in a long time, they lost three games in the month of January, suffering two heartbreaking losses to rival Dirigo and falling to eventual Western C champion Boothbay. But the Falcons knew their goal was still within reach.

“Toward the end of the regular season, we were getting a little emotionally and mentally wiped out,” senior guard D.J. Gerrish said. “We regrouped and got a second wind. We’re hungry for another one. We got that Gold Ball in football, and we want that feeling again.”

The Falcons demonstrated how hungry they were while dispatching Freeport and Cape Elizabeth by 28 and 29 points, respectively, in the first two rounds. If anyone thought things were coming too easy, they showed they could win ugly, too, by buckling down on defense in the 39-32 final against Greely, while their offense scuffled through an off night.

“I think we had a little bit, not easier, but different time those first couple of games,” coach Dave Gerrish said. “Obviously last year, we went into double-overtime in the second game with York and everything was tight. It helps when we make our free throws down the stretch.”

Defense and free-throw shooting might make the difference again against Camden Hills, a big and deep team that can claim to rank as the team of the decade in Class B (three state championships since 2001). Mountain Valley would like to hearken back to the last decade, or more specifically, 1994, when Andy Bedard led the Falcons to their last state title against the school that was then known as Camden-Rockport.

Both Camden Hills and Mountain Valley nearly squandered double-digit leads in their regional finals on Saturday. The Windjammers missed a number of pressure free throws, while the Falcons turned the ball over several times in the final minutes.

It seems that as much as the Falcons like the Cumberland County Civic Center, it’s not paradise to them, at least not yet.

“It’s the oddest thing, but every time we’ve been down here near the end of the game like that, it seems as though we always struggle a little bit with taking care of the ball,” Coach Gerrish said.

“If we get enough practice down here, we’ll be better at it,” he joked.

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