BAR HARBOR — The Mount Desert Island High School girls’ basketball team isn’t used to playing from behind. When the Trojans were put in that position last week, their relentless defense took over.
Whether it was trapping, blocking shots or applying relentless pressure, MDI’s defense found itself in the right places at the right times against a gritty Ellsworth team Thursday. With another rivalry win under their belt, the Trojans now head to the Class B North tournament with high expectations.
MDI combined a 15-0 run at the end of the first half with a defensive master class to surge to a 41-28 Senior Night win over visiting Ellsworth on Thursday. The win gave the Trojans five straight victories and marked the end of the regular season for both teams.
“It’s no secret that we try to get it going on defense and then try to turn our defense into offense,” MDI Head Coach Brent Barker said. “Even when we got behind early, we kept emphasizing that, and that allowed us to get back in it and make a run of our own.”
Over the first 10 minutes, Ellsworth appeared to have cracked a defensive code few teams in Maine have managed against MDI this season. Despite the Trojans’ pressure in the paint and tight closeouts against Ellsworth’s jump shooters, the Eagles stormed out to an early lead early of 15 points to MDI’s 9, with the help of sophomore Trinity Montigny and senior Hannah Sargent.
MDI, though, was quick to recover. Six different players scored in the second quarter for the Trojans, who held Ellsworth without a point over the final six minutes of the half to take a 24-15 lead into the locker room.
“The girls finally settled in, and that made a big difference,” Barker said. “I think there were some nerves with this being Senior Night and this being a rivalry game, but once we got past that and settled in at the defensive end, we were able to make shots and get back in it.”
Yet Ellsworth wasn’t about to let MDI run away with the rivalry win. Led by 3-pointers from Montigny and freshman Sara Shea, the Eagles cut the Trojans’ lead to 24-23 with 5:21 remaining in the third quarter before MDI responded with a 6-0 run to push the lead to seven.
After a pair of Montigny free throws, Hannah Chamberlain hit a long 3-pointer for MDI for the final points of the third quarter. The home team then held Ellsworth to three points in the fourth quarter to end its regular season with a win.
Chamberlain led MDI with 10 points, and junior Maddy Candage provided nine. Emily Banks scored seven in her final home game for the Trojans, Maddy Good, Lindsey McEachern and Julia Watras scored four apiece, and Alexis Clarito provided three.
Barker’s two seniors, Banks and Alahna Mild, both earned starts for the Trojans. Although this year’s MDI team is primarily a junior-laden squad, Barker said the Trojans won’t forget the impact its graduating members had this season.
“Our two seniors are two of the most loyal, hardworking athletes you’ll find anywhere,” Barker said. “They’re team-first players who have been very important to us this season.”
Ellsworth was scheduled to play against No. 7 Waterville (13-5) on the road Tuesday. That game marked the third time in four years the Eagles have faced a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference opponent in the playoffs.
MDI finished third in Class B North with a 14-4 record. The Trojans will face either No. 6 Winslow or No. 11 Orono in the regional quarterfinals at the Cross Insurance Center on Friday, Feb. 16, at 5 p.m.
“When it’s tournament time, you play who you play and have to come out on fire,” Barker said. “Teams everywhere have been building toward this and waiting for this all year long, and it’s always fun to watch everybody take it up a notch.”