Pound for pound, few places in Maine have seen more success in boys’ basketball over the past few years than Hancock County. Since the Eastern Maine region became the Northern Maine region prior to the 2015-16 season, local teams have played in a total of five state and seven regional championship games.
Now that the tournament fields are set, it’s go time for teams locally and elsewhere around the state. Here’s how local Class B teams stack up as they look to make decent runs at the Cross Insurance Center.
Mount Desert Island High School (13-5, No. 3 seed in Class B North)
MDI is back as one of the top threats to win the Class B North championship after fighting its way to the No. 3 seed in the Northern Maine playoffs.
Led by Derek Collin and Drew Shea, MDI’s frontcourt wreaked havoc on opponents in 2018-19. Fellow seniors Eli Parady and Brett Duley added more experience for the Trojans, and the emergence of junior Steven Pierce later in the year gave the team yet another weapon.
After a 2-3 stretch that included two losses to first-place Hermon and one to second-place Caribou, MDI ended the season on a high note with three straight wins. With each of those victories coming by double digits against playoff teams, this year’s Trojans are right where they need to be as they seek their third consecutive Class B North championship game appearance.
“With a lot of us being seniors who’ve played at the Cross Center before, we know what it’s like to be there and be under pressure in front of a lot of people,” Collin said. “Bringing that experience with us, that’s going to be important because it’s not something every team has.”
MDI will open the tournament at 5 p.m. Feb. 15 against the winner of the aforementioned Ellsworth vs. Winslow prelim. With a win, the Trojans would advance to face No. 2 Caribou, No. 7 Orono or No. 10 Washington Academy in the semifinals at 2:05 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20.
“It could be Ellsworth again [in the quarterfinal game], but no matter who it is, we know we’re in for challenging games from here on out,” MDI head coach Justin Norwood said after the Trojans’ 49-37 win over the Eagles in last Thursday’s regular season finale. “You’re getting everyone’s best this time of year, and there’s no tomorrow if you lose.”
Ellsworth, 12-6, No. 6 seed in Class B North
With a balanced assortment of veterans and young players, Ellsworth produced its fourth winning season in the past five years in 2018-19.
Jackson Curtis and Hunter Curtis led the way in the paint, where they combined for more than 500 points and nearly 300 rebounds. The Eagles also had two of the Big East Conference’s top 3-point shooters in Devin Grindle and Darby Barry, who shot a respective 43.8 and 40.2 percent from beyond the arc. On defense, seniors Grindle and Norman Jodrey anchored a secure Ellsworth unit.
Among the Eagles’ various accomplishments this year were a season sweep of George Stevens Academy, something Ellsworth had not accomplished since the 2012-13 season, and two four-game win streaks. Head coach Peter Austin’s team did not lose back-to-back games all year.
The No. 6 Eagles were scheduled to host No. 11 Winslow in Tuesday’s preliminary round. With a win, the Eagles would advance to take on Mount Desert Island (13-5) at 5 p.m. tomorrow, Feb. 15, at the Cross Center.
Other teams to watch
Hermon, which went undefeated last year, had an 18-0 regular season again and will be favored to win back-to-back Gold Balls. Caribou, which swept Ellsworth and lost by two points against MDI in Bar Harbor, has yet to lose in 2019. Class B South is not as strong as Class B North, but Mountain Valley and Maranacook are still formidable teams with title aspirations.
“I would definitely say Hermon is [the favorite],” Norwood said. “They have size, length and quickness, and any team wanting to win that championship this year has to be prepared to go through them.”