BAR HARBOR — High school basketball tryouts and practices began Monday. And as has been the case in many recent seasons, the Mount Desert Island High School boys and girls will enter the upcoming year in positions to compete for regional and state championships.
“I think we have a strong basketball culture here within both programs, and there’s a lot to be excited about this season,” MDI girls’ head coach Brent Barker said. “You look at both the girls and the boys, and you see two teams every year that find ways to compete and win on a consistent basis.”
After going 14-5 last season, Barker’s squad has the chance to be even better in 2018-19.
Although competing for championships in the strong Class B North girls’ field is always a challenge, the returning four starters and several other key players will give MDI chance to make a statement.
Senior Maddy Candage, a first-team selection to the All-Big East Conference team last season, will lead the way for the Trojans once again this go-around. Candage was MDI’s leader in points, rebounds and steals per game last year with 11.2, 7.3 and 2.7, respectively.
Also back as starters are Alexis Clarito, the team’s leader in assists; Julia Watras, who averaged 9.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game and Maddy Good, who averaged 5.7 and 5.2.
Hannah Chamberlain also returns after making 28 3-pointers last year in a sixth-man role, and with other young bench players back and a new crop arriving from the school’s feeder programs, the reigning Big East Coach of the Year has a lot to like.
“We’re fortunate to have a lot of great talent coming back,” Barker said. “You still don’t know exactly what the team is going to look like at this point in the year, but the look of it so far is a team that should be very competitive.”
On the boys’ side, Derek Collin, the team’s top scorer with 13.4 points per game last year and a second-team All-Big East selection, is back for his senior season. So are Drew Shea, who received honorable mention to the All-Big East team and finished as MDI’s top rebounder, and key bench players Eli Parady and Brett Duley.
MDI must replace Andrew Phelps and James McConomy, its top 3-point shooters from a year ago, as well as Colby Lee, Owen Mild, Alden Fournier and Dane Vanzura.
Last year, the team followed the state title won by the 2016-17 squad — one with nine seniors — with a trip to the Northern Maine championship game.
“To have the year we did coming off that Gold Ball team and having to fill the shoes of all those great players and experienced leaders, I think that says a lot,” head coach Justin Norwood said.
“The kids in this program really fight for each other and believe in one another, and that doesn’t change just because good players graduate and move on.”
The first regular season games for both MDI teams will come when they take on Old Town at home early next month. The girls’ team will host the Coyotes at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 and the boys’ team will begin play at 3:30 p.m. the following day.
Preseason contests are set for Thanksgiving weekend. On Saturday, Nov. 24, the MDI girls host GSA at 11 a.m. and the boys play Fryeburg Academy at 2 p.m. On Tuesday, Nov. 27, both teams play Hampden at home, beginning with a girls game at 5 p.m.
Although the Trojans, like other teams, live by the “one game at a time” mantra, teams everywhere have their sights set on taking home the Gold Ball in March. Winning it won’t be easy with strong contenders such as Hermon, Waterville and Winslow on the girls’ side and Hermon and Oceanside returning solid squads on the boys’ side, but MDI has the pieces to be in the mix.
“I think we can go a long way,” Norwood said. “Those first few games and these first upcoming practices leading up to them are important because no one wants to start off on the wrong foot and then have to fight their way back. You want that good start to build your confidence and then go from there.”