PORTLAND — What looked like Class B South’s biggest mismatch on paper nearly became the bracket’s biggest upset.

Thankfully for top-ranked Mountain Valley, upset-minded Poland missed its final shot.

The Falcons held on for a 36-33 victory at the Portland Expo on Tuesday after the Knights’ Morgan Brosseau just missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Mountain Valley (18-1) pulled away after spotting the eighth-seeded Knights (7-12) a 4-0 lead to start. A 16-0 run put Mountain Valley in the driver’s seat in the second quarter, and the lead stood at 20-11 at halftime.

Falcons senior captain Sydney Petrie said her team was able to slow down and run the offense after a nervous few minutes at the start.

Natalie Theriault scored the game’s first two baskets, then scored her next one with 2:42 left in the second to stop the Falcons’ long run.

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Yet even with a nearly double-digit lead, Mountain Valley wasn’t looking ahead to the semifinals during the intermission.

“You can never be comfortable in a tournament game,” Petrie said.

The senior was right.

Jessica Seeley converted a three-point play late in the third to pull Poland within five at 25-20 heading into the fourth quarter.

“We knew Poland was really tough,” Mountain Valley coach Ryan Casey said. “We expected nothing different than what we got tonight.”

The Knights stifled the Mountain Valley offense to just two field goals in the third, and the Falcons compounded that by missing 5 of 6 free throws.

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“Everything we’ve done all year has been predicated off our defense, and how hard we work on that end kind of dictates the flow of our offense,” Poland coach Michael Susi said. “They’re sharks. They sniff a little blood, they get after it.”

That defensive success started to carry over onto the offensive side of the ball as well. Alexandria Grondin made a basket 40 seconds into the fourth to cut it to a one-possession game at 25-22.

The Falcons pulled out to a 30-24 lead midway through the final frame, but back the Knights came. Grondin hit a pair of 3s and Brosseau hit one of her own.

“We were good until they started getting hot and making those shots,” Petrie said. “But we kept it under composure.”

Petrie was a calming influence for the Falcons, making plays all over the court while also scoring a team-high 11 points.

“She’s our muscle,” Casey said. “I’m proud of her as a senior to step up and really lead this team the way she has. I thought tonight she was a great leader, not just a great basketball player, and that’s what this team needs.”

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Fellow senior captain Karen Flaherty also scored 11 points, including making 3 of 4 from the line in the fourth to help keep the Falcons in the lead.

Yet Poland still had a chance to tie at the end, thanks to forcing a tie-up with under a minute to go.

“They never, ever, ever quit,” Susi said. “I don’t think that a lot of people believed we had a chance to win this game, being the eighth seed and being so undersized. We played that up a little bit this week. They believed. They believed they could. We gave them everything we could.”

Theriault finished with a game-high 14 points, and Grondin scored all eight of hers in the fourth.

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