It’s been nearly five full years since the Mount Desert Island High School girls’ basketball team beat Presque Isle to claim the Eastern Maine title in Class B. Since then, no Hancock County girls’ team has won a regional title.
Although only three local girls’ teams are headed to the tournament this year, those teams will be formidable opponents for any team that hopes to bring home a Gold Ball.
Mount Desert Island (16-2, No. 1 seed in Class B North)
A year ago, a junior-led MDI team claimed the No. 3 seed in the Class B North playoffs after a 14-4 regular season. That core of players entered the 2018-19 campaign with high expectations, and the Trojans met them through the first 18 games.
MDI’s biggest strength came in the post, where the duo of Julia Watras and Maddy Candage combined to average 24.2 points and 17.4 rebounds per game. With Hannah Chamberlain’s solid 3-point shooting and Alexis Clarito’s guard play and defense adding to the repertoire, opposing teams struggled to keep up with the Trojans’ versatility.
The team’s only losses this year came in early January against Ellsworth and Hermon, and MDI avenged both of those defeats later in the season as it finished 16-2. After winning seven games in a row to end the regular season, the Trojans will enter the tournament with as much momentum as anyone in Class B.
“I think you want to be going into the tournament playing your best, and we’ve gone through a stretch where we’ve had to beat some good teams,” MDI head coach Brent Barker said. “With all that said, it was just last year that a 6 seed that had to go through the prelims ended up winning the entire tournament. I think the field is that deep again this year.”
MDI will open its postseason campaign at 4:35 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, when it takes on either No. 8 Oceanside (7-11) or No. 9 Maine Central Institute (9-9). The Trojans swept Oceanside in the regular season and topped MCI in a five-quarter exhibition game in the preseason.
Ellsworth (13-5, No. 6 seed in Class B North)
With each passing year, the Ellsworth girls’ team has improved little by little in the Class B North ranks. That development took the next step this season as the Eagles improved by three wins in their best regular season to date under head coach Andy Pooler.
Among Ellsworth’s 13 wins were milestone victories over Presque Isle and Mount Desert Island, teams the Eagles hadn’t beaten in more than a decade. The team clinched a playoff berth for the seventh consecutive year when it defeated John Bapst on Jan. 17 to qualify with five games remaining.
“I think we’re ahead of schedule,” Ellsworth head coach Andy Pooler. “At the beginning of the year, if you’re looking at realistically, maybe MDI and Presque Isle are ones you’re looking at winning next year, but we were able to go into those games and get big wins. We’ve had a lot of players grow up fast.”
Junior Trinity Montigny led both Ellsworth and the Big East Conference in scoring with 16.6 points per game. The Eagles also boast a strong sophomore class with Kylie Robidoux (7.3 rebounds per game) leading the way in the paint and Sierra Andrews, Samantha Carter and Sara Shea also providing valuable contributions.
Ellsworth was scheduled to play a rematch against No. 11 John Bapst (6-12) in the preliminary round Tuesday, at Ellsworth High School. A win over the Crusaders would send the Eagles to the Cross Insurance Center, where they would play third-ranked Waterville (18-0) at 8 p.m. tomorrow, Feb. 18.
“Our goal going into the year was to get a home playoff game, and we’ve done that,” Pooler said. “Those past two years, we had to go on the road in the prelims, and that’s just hard to do. To get over that hump and make it to the Cross Center would mean a lot for this group.”
Other teams to watch
Hermon and Old Town gave MDI and Ellsworth trouble in the regular season, and both will be Northern Maine title contenders. At 18-0, Waterville boasts two wins over defending Class B champion Winslow. Gray New-Gloucester, the No. 1 team in Class B South, has an experienced roster composed entirely of juniors and seniors.