BAR HARBOR — The Mount Desert Island High School girls’ basketball team has won a fair number of games over the years, but it was one contest the Trojans didn’t win last season that made Head Coach Brent Barker as proud as ever.
Last season, the eighth-seeded Trojans met No. 1 Houlton in the regional quarterfinals. The Shiretowners, winners of two state championships in a row, were overwhelming favorites to make it three in a row.
Instead of folding, MDI fought Houlton to the wire. The Trojans kept Houlton and star forward Kolleen Bouchard, one of the most prolific scorers in state history, at bay and trailed by merely one point in the fourth quarter of a 47-39 defeat.
“We did everything we could do and gave them everything they wanted,” Barker said. “It was a game that showed us, ‘Hey, we can play with anyone.’”
Competing with the best of the best is something MDI expects. Since the 1996-97 season, the Trojans have won four state championships. The Lady Trojans were Eastern Maine Champions in 2014 and continue to make deep playoff runs year after year.
After posting a 12-8 record in 2016-17 despite losing two Maine McDonald’s All-Stars to graduation, Barker thinks the Trojans are ready to take the next step.
“Even last year, we went in having lost Sierra Tapley and Kelsey Shaw and still made it to the Cross Insurance Center,” Barker said. “It’s always an expectation for us to qualify for the tournament and make a deep run. I think this group wants that, and I think this group is more than capable of doing that.”
The Trojans graduated Emma Watras, Maya Watras, Mariah Hamor and Abbe Miller last year but still return three players with starting experience. Maddy Candage was the team’s top scorer a year ago, and Maddy Good and Julia Watras also earned significant playing time.
Candage, Good and Julia Watras are
juniors, as are Julia Link and Alexis Clarito. That will give the Trojans a good core of players on which to build in the future, but for the moment, Barker is focused on how the team fits together in 2017-18.
“We’re still trying to figure out where kids are going to be,” Barker said. “It’s early, and every time you come into a new season after losing some players, you have to see what each person’s role is where they’re going to be.”
MDI has excelled in its preseason contests thus far. The Trojans narrowly lost to Hampden, a Class A North semifinalist last season, and followed it with a Nov. 30 win over Maine Central Institute and a pair of weekend wins against Lake Region and Poland, two Class B South playoff teams.
“That trip [to Lake Region] was a great bonding experience for us,” Barker said. “We showed up and competed to win against two quality programs, and we came away knowing a lot of the things we’ve been practicing were working.”
MDI’s first game will be on the road against Old Town tomorrow, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. The Trojans also faced Old Town in last season’s opener. The two contests between the teams last season had a combined score of MDI 108 – Old Town 32.
“They’ve struggled the past couple years, but they have a solid freshman class coming in,” Barker said. “When it’s the first game of the year, you want to come out hard and get that first win under your belt. They’ll bring on the pressure, and that’s something we have to be able to handle if we’re going to be a team that plays to our potential.”