Mountain Valley’s Jacob Blanchard, middle, drives to the basket past Monmouth’s Brock Bates, left and Evan Burnell during Monday night’s game in Rumford. (Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham)

RUMFORD — Mountain Valley switched up its defense in the second half to combat Monmouth Academy’s hot first-half shooting, and it worked.

The Falcons buckled down in man-to-man defense to hand Monmouth its fifth loss of the season, 69-54, in MVC boys’ basketball play Monday night.

After a 15-point win, the defense usually isn’t a concern, but it was the main focus after the game for Mountain Valley coach Scot New.

The Falcons built up a 16-8 first-quarter lead behind seven points from Keegan Davis and five from William Sorensen. However, Monmouth picked up the pace in the second quarter, scoring 22 points to come within two points at halftime.

The biggest reason for the Mustangs’ offensive outburst was Gabe Martin’s four 3-pointers in the quarter. Brock Bates scored seven points in the period to finish the half with 11.

“We had to challenge them,” New said. “We get lost defensively sometimes, but we preach ‘do your job.’ We went man-to-man the entire second half and just challenged them and worked as hard as we possibly could. Challenging them in the second half and to challenge them defensively was the key for us.”

The Falcons put pressure on ball handlers in the third quarter and reaped the benefits. Davis scored three quick buckets to begin the third and after Martin hit another 3, and the Falcons went on an 11-0 run in the middle of the third.

The defensive pressure turned to quick offense as Mountain Valley had more and more fast breaks.

“We want to run. We aren’t a really good half-court team,” New said. “Put pressure defensively and get out and run is where we want to be. We have some really good defenders to help get out in transition and get the crowd into it.”

Midway through the Falcons’ run, Sorensen caught a pass off an offensive rebound and drilled his second 3 of the quarter. Mountain Valley was up 46-39 with 2:58 left and the crowd was rocking.

“When we played Hall-Dale earlier in the season our fans definitely helped us,” Sorensen said. “When the fans are quiet we still play well, but the fans definitely bring us up.”

The Falcons hit six 3s in the game, including a pair in the second period by Casey Cormier.

Monmouth climbed back into the game again at the end of the third thanks to a trey from Bates, who finished the game with 17 points.

The Falcons had an opportunity to close it out in the third but didn’t capitalize on defense, which was the focus after the game for New.

“We gotta work harder on defense, for sure, because we didn’t play our best at all, and definitely can play harder than that,” Sorensen said.

Mountain Valley charged out of the gates in the fourth on an 8-1 run to increase the lead to 12 points.

“We didn’t really play that well in general. The third quarter was iffy, but the fourth quarter we started out on a big run and I think that was the big difference,” Sorensen said.

The Falcons seemed to dominate the boards, and the game, in the fourth, which proved to be the deciding factor for Monmouth head coach Wade Morrill.

“They stretched us out at the free-throw line there, but I thought it was a six-, seven-point game there,” Morrill said. “We just gotta hit shots at the rim. We’ve got 6-6, 6-2, 6-2, some big, strong athletic boys that have to do the dirty work around the basket. We just got out-run.”

Sorensen hit six free throws in the fourth quarter and finished with 20 points.

“I knew they were fouling a lot, so I figured either me or Keegan would get the ball and we could both hit some free throws,” Sorensen said. “We practice free throws every day and so most of the guys on our team are good free-throw shooters.”

The win over Monmouth gives the Falcons a nice Heal-point boost and puts them in range of the MVC championship game.

“This is a big win,” New said. “We have a tough game tomorrow night against Spruce. … I told the guys that it was a great win and learning how to win basketball games is key. That’s the thing, the fourth quarter is something we’ve always prided ourselves on. Close game in the third, best team in the fourth is going to win if you play hard, and I thought that’s what we did tonight.”

Monmouth’s Connor Davies takes a shot as Mountain Valley’s Cam Godbois defends during Monday night’s game in Rumford. (Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham)

Monmouth’s Evan Burnell, foreground and Mountain Valley’s Draven Finnegan battle for a rebound during the first half of Monday night’s game in Rumford. (Sun Journal Photo by Russ Dillingham)

Mountain Valley’s Cam Godbois gets a shot off over a Monmouth player during Monday night’s game in Rumford. (Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham)

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