BINGHAM — As the fourth quarter of Monday’s game at Temple Academy began, the Valley boys basketball team trailed by nine points. The Cavaliers didn’t panic. Seniors Dillon Beane and Josh Brown wouldn’t let it happen, although each was in foul trouble.

“I remember Dillon just telling everyone ‘We’re fine. We’ve got this. We’ve done it before,'” Valley coach Curtis Miller said.

In the fourth quarter, Valley rallied, outscoring Temple by 11 points to take a 49-47 win. The win pushed the Cavs to 8-1 at the season’s midpoint. In first place in the Class D South Heal Point standings, Valley is focused on its second state title in three seasons. Beane and Brown were sophomores on the team that won the Gold Ball in 2016, and as the only seniors and undisputed leaders of the Cavs, they have been integral to the team’s success this season.

That state championship team had a core group of seniors, Cody Laweryson, Collin Miller and Luke Malloy.

“I was on the state championship team, but it was their team. Now it’s, we’ve stepped up, and it’s our team, Josh and I,” Beane said.

Brown said that group of seniors helped him overcome a lack of confidence on the court. He recalled a game against Rangeley that season in which he came off the bench and made a 3-pointer. Later, Brown’s teammates encouraged the sophomore to take more shots.

“Everyone started yelling for me when we came off for a timeout. Keep shooting, keep shooting!” Brown said.

That’s how Beane and Brown try to lead their younger teammates. Along with the senior duo, Valley’s roster includes four juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen.

“It’s key to help build their composure on the court. It’s key to be not panicking. Just be confident with the basketball on the court,” Beane said.

Added Miller, who is in his second season as Valley’s coach: “We had a big senior class last year. (Beane and Brown) both got a lot of playing time, but they weren’t really leaders on the team yet. They won states their sophomore year, to a new coach, new everything. From Day 1 in practice, I could tell they were ready to turn it up… I’ve seen it a bunch of times in practice. If we’re going through drills nonchalantly, they’re saying guys, let’s go.”

A guard, Brown averages 15 points per game. A forward, Beane averages around 10 points and eight rebounds per game. It’s at the defensive end the pair have meant the most to the Cavs, Miller said. Brown routinely guards the opponents’ best shooter. In a Dec. 19 win at rival Forest Hills, Brown locked down the Tigers’ high-scoring Parker Desjardins, holding him to three points in a 65-61 victory.

“I was actually going to switch Josh and Dillon off on (Desjardins), but he said in the practice before (the game), ‘No, I’ve got him,'” Miller said.

Added Brown: “I like being the guy who has to step up on defense, pass the ball, and score. Anything the team needs me to do. It feels good to have that role put on me as a senior.”

While Brown was a late convert to the importance of defense, it’s always been a big part of Beane’s game.

“I really appreciate when people tell me that I play good defense. That’s something I really take pride in, my defensive effort,” Beane said. “That’s something I’ve always been known for playing here at Valley, being the guy who’ll do the dirty work, take the charges, stuff like that.”

With the emergence of Brown as a perimeter defender, Beane has been able to focus on defending down low, Miller said. Their defense was instrumental in Valley’s two biggest wins so far, the comeback at Temple and a 69-68 win over Class C Piscatquis last week, when the Cavs rallied from a 16-point third quarter deficit.

“We’ve had some close games this year. I really see them take over in the end and help everyone keep their heads up. Every huddle, every timeout, it’s let’s go, we’ve got this. Just talking to the younger guys, if they make a mistake, it’s fine, get over it. We’re on to the next thing. They dig in and get after it defensively, which really helps,” Miller said.

Winning basketball is a tradition at Valley. Above the court are banners commemorating the boys basketball team’s state-record six consecutive state championships from 1998 to 2003, and a banner recognizing that group’s state-record 101-game win streak. There’s also a banner for the 2016 team, and a trophy case full of Gold Balls.

“It’s kind of expected from the crowd to be good at basketball,” Brown said.

Added Beane: “The basketball tradition has always been a big part of the town. Keeping the basketball tradition alive, and always having a very competitive team.”

With all the banners and gold balls already in Valley’s collection, Beane and Brown want to help deliver one more.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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