What’s an unbeaten regular season worth?

At the risk of opening some still-tender wounds in the soul of New England Patriots fans, not much. And the Mountain Valley High School boys’ basketball team knows it.

The Falcons don’t have to look far for a case study in their real world, either.

Twice in the last 11 years, Edward Little paraded through more than two months without a blemish before losing in the Class A regional quarterfinals. All but handed the state title in the court of public opinion last winter, Cheverus found the same, unexpected early exit in the semis.

Mountain Valley turned back Telstar on Thursday night to finish 18-0, a status symbol rare in the rugged Mountain Valley Conference even for a program with the Falcons’ lofty reputation.

Judging from the players’ reaction, you probably won’t see any banners hoisted or T-shirts printed before their time.

“I just want to win the Gold Ball,” said sophomore Izaak Mills, referring to the trophy traditionally presented to each state champion.

Three such hunks of highbrow hardware have been added to the trophy case since the Rumford and Mexico schools merged, the last coming when the current seniors were freshmen in 2007.

But two straight quarterfinal exits since winning that title have reminded the Falcons that it takes a different level of intensity to compete with the traditional Class B powers from Cumberland and York counties.

“We definitely gave up too many points,” Mountain Valley coach Rick White said after a 64-57 victory over Dirigo. “But when it got down to it, we did hunker down. We got into the passing lanes and made some stops.”

If Mountain Valley is looking for additional motivation, the oft-misunderstood Heal Point system will provide plenty by the time the final playoff pairings are set this weekend.

Not all 18-0 seasons are created equal. In fact, if Cape Elizabeth (16-1) knocks off Falmouth (17-0) in their regular-season finale Friday, both teams will finish ahead of Mountain Valley despite splitting their series.

Even if Falmouth holds serve against Cape, it remains to be seen if the win over Telstar is enough to propel the Falcons over the Capers into the No. 2 seed. 

Mountain Valley played its entire schedule against Class C schools. Because the Heals assign a lesser point value to wins over ‘C’ schools than ‘B’ schools, Falmouth and Cape’s wins over middle-of-the-pack schools in the predominantly ‘B’ Western Maine Conference are generally worth more than victories over Mountain Valley’s top-tier ‘C’ brethren in the MVC.

Making matters more difficult for the Falcons, Livermore Falls and Dirigo were the only other MVC teams to log more than 12 wins in a season of pointed parity.

As far as the Falcons are concerned, any outsiders’ perception that this is was a “down” or mediocre year in their league is off-base.

“We”ll take No. 2 or No. 3. It doesn’t matter. Wherever they put us, we’ll be ready,” said junior guard Cam Kaubris. “Games like Dirigo at the end of the season are what we need. Those guys are good. We think they’re just as good as any of the teams down south.”

On the surface, the Falcons have an eight-day lull between now and their quarterfinal on Saturday, Feb. 13. But their high-powered offense won’t be idling.

Mountain Valley will be a heavy favorite in the MVC championship at Augusta Civic Center against the southern division champion, likely Hall-Dale, at 8 p.m. Monday.

“That’s been one of our goals,” White said. “We haven’t won one of those in a while.”

The Falcons also tentatively are scheduled to scrimmage Mt. Blue or Thornton next week.

Gould gets the word

Arthur R. Gould School of South Portland will get its chance to play in the Western Class D tournament in Augusta.

According to a published report in the Portland Press Herald, A.R. Gould, located at the Long Creek Development Center youth correctional facility, received special dispensation late last week to make the trip for the Feb. 13 quarterfinals.

That decision required the approval of the Maine Department of Corrections and Gov. John Baldacci, according to the report.

Non-emergency off-campus travel for A.R. Gould students was suspended last summer due to an incident not related to sports.

In only its second season since reinstating its interscholastic sports program, A.R. Gould went 11-0 on its home court. The Bears briefly were ranked No. 1 in the region until defending Western D champion Richmond reclaimed the top spot Thursday.

At least one of A.R. Gould’s starting five played at Lewiston High School last season.

McDonald’s Man

Edward Little senior James Philbrook is a nominee for the McDonald’s All-America High School Basketball Team.

He is among seven nominees from Maine and 1,500 from around the country competing for 24 spots on the team, which will be announced on Feb. 11 on ESPNU.

Philbrook was presented his nomination certificate prior to last Saturday’s home game against Morse. The other Maine nominees are Dominic Borelli of Westbrook, Garrett Clemmer of Windham, Indiana Faithful of Cheverus, Keegan Hyland of South Portland, Jacob Moore of Hampden Academy and Koang Thok of Portland.

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