RUMFORD – The last time Mountain Valley and Camden Hills met for the title in 1994, Andy Bedard lit up what was then known as Camden-Rockport for 53 points to lead Mountain Valley to its last state championship.

Given the defensive pedigrees of the current Falcons and Windjammers, it might be a lot to ask for one, let alone both, to match that output.

Mountain Valley will take its second shot at the Class B state championship in as many years today when it meets a program that has had even more success than its own this decade, Camden Hills (1:45 p.m., Cumberland County Civic Center). The Windjammers have three titles under their sails, in 2001, 2002 and 2005, part of a run of six straight championships won by Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference teams that Maranacook extended last year by knocking off Mountain Valley at the Bangor Auditorium, 73-58.

The Falcons have three starters back from that squad and the comfort of playing in an arena where they’ve yet to suffer a loss. At the very least, they feel they shouldn’t be overwhelmed by nerves as they were last year.

“I think it’s to our advantage that we played in the championship last year,” senior guard D.J. Gerrish said. “I think going into this year I’m not going to be nearly as nervous as I was last year. Last year, I came out and I think I shot two air balls in a row and pretty much played the worst game of my life. Coming into this game and this tournament, I’ve kept the perspective that this is my senior year, I’m not going to waste this opportunity.”

They played with that kind of poise, for the most part, while dominating Freeport and Cape Elizabeth, then slipped a little in the final minutes of the regional final against Greely. Fortunately for the Falcons, they had such a defensive grip on the game that Greely wasn’t able to convert the turnovers into an offensive explosion and managed just 32 points.

Like Mountain Valley(18-3), Camden Hills (17-4) nearly squandered a double-digit fourth quarter lead in its regional final against Mattanawcook. Unlike the Falcons, whose offensive proficiency centers largely on Maine Mr. Basketball finalist Andy Shorey, the Windjammers had a different player leading them in scoring in each of their tournament victories.

In the quarterfinals against Winslow, guard Paul Draper came off the bench to pour in 23 points. In the semis against Ellsworth, forwards Jared Mitchell and Gordon Fischer tallied 13 points apiece. Against Mattanawcook, 6-foot-4 sophomore forward Nick Wootton posted 16 points and eight rebounds to pace the Windjammers.

Camden’s balance and depth are concerns for Mountain Valley. So is its size. Wootton, Fischer (the team’s only all-KVAC first team representative), junior guard Paul Campbell and junior forward Dylan Smith, dominated the glass against Mattanawcook. Shorey, Owen Jones and sixth man Matt Lyons will have their hands full denying them second chances and getting the Falcons’ running game going.

The Windjammer guards, Campbell, Draper and Christian Pieri, are aggressive penetrators and, along with Mitchell, can step back and hit the 3-pointer. Under coach Jeff Hart, Camden has won its championships by running, shooting the 3 and playing suffocating defense, and this team has followed that blueprint.

Defensively, Mountain Valley has lived by a similar philosophy. The Falcons rely on their defense to get them through occasional offensive struggles. Gerrish, sophomore guard Justin Staires and junior guard Dean McCrillis are heads-up ball-hawks in the passing lanes, and Shorey, Jones and Lyons will block shots.

While they don’t want to get into a track meet with Camden, the Falcons are capable of impressive offensive outbursts. Shorey, Gerrish, Jones and Staires can all get hot from beyond the arc. Shorey is a triple threat in the high or low post, able to shoot, put the ball on the floor or spot an open cutter. Jones is an athletic slasher who’s dangerous on the offensive boards and on the wing of the break. Lyons has provided quick scoring outbursts off the bench.


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