ELLSWORTH — The Mount Desert Island High School girls’ basketball team has a single blip on its 2017-18 record so far, but that speed bump has been driving the Trojans ever since.
A loss on the annual road trip to Aroostook County is far from unheard of for any visiting team, but it was the way his team lost its Dec. 27 contest against Caribou that bothered Head Coach Brent Barker. The Trojans led most of the game before falling to an 11-point defeat.
“We were up six points in the fourth quarter and let it slip away,” Barker said. “After that, I told them, ‘Hey, we need to do a better job of finishing games.’”
Since then, MDI has done exactly that, controlling games late in three straight road wins. With the midway point of the season one game away, the Trojans have shown steely resolve.
MDI defeated Ellsworth 51-32 in Tuesday’s encounter at Katsiaficas Gymnasium to earn its third consecutive win.
Ellsworth won the opening tip and held the ball for almost a minute before Maddy Good blocked a shot to give the visitors possession. After both teams turned the ball over, the Trojans took a 4-0 lead over the Eagles with 6:05 to play. MDI extended its lead to 6-0 two minutes later before Trinity Montigny scored Ellsworth’s first points with a 3-pointer from the corner.
Although MDI (7-1) led 12-5 after one quarter of play despite two early foul calls against Good, Ellsworth scored two quick baskets in the second quarter and locked down on defense to pull within three points. The Trojans extended that lead to five points in the final two minutes and led 20-15 at halftime after Hannah Sargent’s last-ditch 3-pointer grazed the rim.
MDI opened up the second half on a tear and extended its lead to 26-15 after three baskets in the first 2-1/2 minutes. Katelynn Bagley made a layup for Ellsworth (5-4), but MDI responded with a pull-up jump shot from Maddy Candage and an Emily Banks layup to take a 30-17 lead. The Trojans extended that advantage to 36-21 entering the final frame.
“Getting a lead like that helped us build confidence and kept them [Ellsworth] on their heels,” Barker said. “When you can get into the driver’s seat like that in the second half, it’s going to put you in a good position to win.”
The Trojans held Ellsworth scoreless for the first four minutes of the fourth quarter and pulled away further with key baskets from Good and Candage on the offensive end. Sargent had five points for Ellsworth in the closing minutes, but it wasn’t enough, as MDI coasted to victory.
Candage had 12 points for MDI, and Julia Watras scored 10. The Trojans’ other scorers were Banks with nine, Good with seven, Lindsey McEachern with five, Hannah Chamberlain with four and Alahna Mild and Rachelle Swanson with two each.
“It’s exciting when you come here because it’s a rivalry game and a chance to get an important win,” MDI’s Candage said. “Both teams are playing really hard, and you have to bring your best.”
Both teams remain in the playoff hunt at the midseason mark. With MDI in fifth and Ellsworth in eighth, both teams are on track to play home games in next month’s preliminary round.
The Trojans face Orono (2-5) on Monday, Jan. 15, at 3:30 p.m. and John Bapst on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m. After that, Barker’s team will play six of its final eight games at home.
“It’s hard to play nearly a month away from home like we have, but our kids don’t quit and don’t complain when the going gets tough,” Barker said. “If we can keep winning like we have, we’ll be right where we want to be come tournament time.”