BAR HARBOR — The Mount Desert Island High School varsity boys’ basketball team won preseason matchups against Sumner and Fryeburg Academy Saturday held during the school’s annual Thanksgiving Tip-Off tournament.
“With this group, I love the energy that we play with,” Coach Justin Norwood said.
This year, he changed the team’s trademark “Together!” cheer at the end of time outs to “All in!”
“I hear a lot of people doing ‘Together’ now, so I was like, I want to come up with something else, that’s ours,” he said. “One of the things we talked about at the beginning of the year is total buy-in to the team, how we need to be here, we need to be present all the time. So I liked ‘All in,’ and it fit.”
The opening minutes of the Sumner game helped set the tone for the day: Sumner controlled the tip-off, but MDI’s Porter Isaacs knocked away the ball immediately. The teams battled for control and there was no scoring in the first minute. Nate Philbrook’s defensive rebounds helped keep the Tigers at bay.
Then Jack DaCorte, an MDI senior who played as a JV-varsity swinger last season, got the Trojans on the board with a three-pointer, the first followed quickly with another two points from Ethan Merchant.
In the second quarter, Merchant added some fierce charges, evading defenders with zigs and zags, sometimes on his own and sometimes assisting Porter Isaacs in the post. Junior Brady Renault brought defensive pressure.
At one point, DaCorte was knocked down, but while he was falling he managed to tip the ball to Will Hodgdon, who sank the two-point shot.
In the third, DaCorte scored on an assist from Ethan Merchant, a long crosscourt pass, following a three-pointer and just before a solo coast-to-coast drive, both from Merchant.
Erik Merchant sent the ball inside to Grady Wellman-Webster for a plus-one, then at the end of the quarter sank a long three-point shot from half court at the buzzer.
In the afternoon game with Fryeburg Academy, the Trojans had a narrow 15-11 lead in the second quarter, but they picked up momentum and extended their lead to 30-16. Caden Lunt, Ethan Merchant, Maddox Lorendo and Brady Renault contributed field goals or assists in the MDI run.
Renault sank a layup even though a Fryeburg defender jumped high enough in an attempt to block the shot that he slapped the backboard. A few minutes later, Renault took a long pass and was wide open and ready to shoot, but noticed a defender was hurtling toward him down the court. So he waited until the defender jumped toward where he thought the ball would be, then made the shot after it was clear again.
Norwood said he was pleased with the team’s improvement, even over the course of the day.
“There are some different things that we’ve been working on that we showed some improvement on,” he said.
Many of the players worked hard in the offseason; about 40 players in summer open gyms, he said, and “I think a lot of them really worked hard this fall.”