MDI’s Elizabeth Jones keeps the ball away from Ellsworth’s Jocelyn Jordan during the second half of a high school girls’ basketball game Dec. 14 at Ellsworth High School. MDI will host Orono (0-2) at 7 p.m. tomorrow, Dec. 17, before playing at Caribou at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22. ISLANDER PHOTOS BY MIKE MANDELL

Balanced MDI girls’ basketball team overpowers Ellsworth



MDI’s Lexi Tozier defends against Ellsworth’s Jocelyn Jordan during the second half of a high school girls’ basketball game Dec. 14 at Ellsworth High School. MDI’s win followed a 65-32 victory over John Bapst in Saturday’s season opener at Hermon High School.
ISLANDER PHOTOS BY MIKE MANDELL

ELLSWORTH — Well-rounded basketball teams are capable of thriving in more ways than one. In the early stages of the 2021-22 season, Brent Barker’s unit has demonstrated that.

No player on the Mount Desert Island girls’ basketball team has filled the stat sheets with massive scoring totals in the team’s preseason or early regular season games. Rather than an indication that Barker’s Trojans have been playing poorly, that’s a sign that they’re clicking exactly as hoped.

“That’s the plan for how we’re going to play,” said Barker, MDI’s head coach. “We don’t have anybody who’s going to average 15 points per game this year; we have a group that has a nice balance to it and plays together.”

It’s still very early, but the initial returns have been good for Barker’s MDI squad. In the team’s latest contest, the veteran Trojans – fueled by some hot 3-point shooting and strong defense – used that balance to breeze to a rivalry game win.

MDI claimed a 53-35 victory in Tuesday’s showdown against Ellsworth at Ellsworth High School. The Trojans had five players pour in three or more field goals, sank eight 3-pointers and stifled a young Ellsworth team’s offense in the second and third quarters en route to a lopsided win.

After falling behind 7-3, Ellsworth (1-1) pulled ahead by one midway through the first quarter behind five straight points by freshman Grace Jaffray. MDI responded with eight of the opening quarter’s final 10 points as 3-pointers from Mollie Gray and Emily Carter and a layup from Elizabeth Jones gave the Trojans a 15-10 lead after eight minutes of play.

MDI (2-0) built on its late first-quarter momentum early in the second as a triple from Lexi Tozier and two from Olivia Gray helped push the visitors’ lead to 31-14. The Trojans, who led 32-17 at halftime, lost a bit of offensive steam in the third quarter but limited Ellsworth to one point in the period to take a 44-18 lead into the final frame.

MDI’s lead dwindled somewhat in the fourth quarter as Barker rotated out the team’s starters to get his younger players some more experience – but not before Olivia Gray responded to a 7-2 Ellsworth run by rounding out her shooting effort with her fourth 3-pointer of the night.

“When you’re hot like that, you’ve got to keep shooting,” said Gray, whose 14 points led all scorers. “Our thing is passing the ball around because we know that running our plays is going to get us that open shot. … I missed one or two, but like I said, you’ve just to keep shooting.”

Tozier and Mollie Gray joined Olivia Gray in double figures with 10 points apiece. MDI also got nine points from Emily Carter, seven from Elizabeth Jones, two from Elena Alderman and one from Grace Witham. Ellsworth got 12 points from Morgan Clifford, 11 from Jaffray, six from Lily Bean, four from Abby Radel and two from Jocelyn Jordan.

MDI’s win followed a 65-32 victory over John Bapst in Saturday’s season opener at Hermon High School. In that game, the Trojans got points from all 12 players and outscored the Crusaders 41-9 over the second and third quarters to start the year with a blowout win.

Both of MDI’s regular season wins to date have come with Leah Carroll, the team’s top scorer each of the past two seasons, unavailable. Missing key players is never an ideal situation, but with the Trojans boasting five other experienced seniors as well as impact underclassmen in Mollie Gray and Tozier, the team’s philosophy hasn’t changed.

“We want to pound the ball inside and play inside-out basketball by getting people open and getting the ball to different people,” Barker said. “We’ve been working really hard these last three weeks to make sure we establish ourselves on the inside, get that inside-out and then kick out to our shooters. With our balance, teams can’t play one or the other.”

Mount Desert Island’s Elena Alderman looks to pass as Ellsworth’s Megan Jordan defends during the first half of a high school girls’ basketball game Dec. 14 at Ellsworth High School. MDI got a well-rounded scoring effort that included a 3-point barrage on offense and stifled Ellsworth on the defensive end to secure a 53-35 win.
ISLANDER PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

For Ellsworth, the defeat came three days after a 44-point second half in a 69-49 season-opening win over Mount View. Whereas Ellsworth’s young talent showcased its strengths in that victory, Tuesday night was more of a learning experience.

“We ran into a really, really, really good, veteran MDI team, and they shot the ball well,” Ellsworth head coach Andy Pooler said. “We’re going to have these nights with some growing pains, and we just have to learn from it. We’ll get back in the gym tomorrow and get back to work.”

MDI will host Orono (0-2) at 7 p.m. tomorrow, Dec. 17, before playing at Caribou at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22. Ellsworth has upcoming road games against Houlton at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18, and Caribou at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The Trojans, of course, have lofty expectations for this season given the pieces they have returning from teams that put together winning seasons each of the past two years. There’s a long way to go, but Gray likes MDI’s chances if it can maintain its poise and stability.

“This is our year,” Gray said. “I want this to be our year, and I feel like we can make it if we keep playing as a team.”

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *