BAR HARBOR — If there’s one thing that’s been missing on the Hancock County sports scene in recent winters, it’s been a boys’ basketball thriller between the county’s two largest high schools.
Recent contests between Ellsworth and Mount Desert Island have been rather lopsided. In the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 regular seasons, the Trojans won all six games between the two by at least 12 points; since then, the Eagles had rolled off three consecutive easy victories over MDI entering the 2021 campaign.
With only media members and school faculty in attendance for the latest Ellsworth-MDI showdown, Bunny Parady Gymnasium had none of the clashing school colors, energizing bands and boisterous fans and cheerleaders that have long characterized the matchup. On the court, though, the two teams put on a show that kept the few on hand and the hundreds watching at home on the edges of their seats.
MDI prevailed 75-71 over Ellsworth in last Thursday’s boys’ basketball showdown in Bar Harbor. The overtime victory gave the Trojans a much-needed result entering the second half of the season and snapped a red-hot Ellsworth team’s winning streak at four games.
“We needed this,” MDI head coach Justin Norwood said. “We’ve been struggling a little bit, but the kids came out, fought hard and responded really well. This was a great win against a great team.”
MDI got off to an inauspicious start to the game as Ellsworth’s Michael Palmer drained a long 3-pointer and then a turnaround jump shot to give the visitors a 5-0 advantage. The Eagles then got a layup from Chance Mercier and a 3-pointer from Eamon MacDonald to stretch their lead to 10-0 after just two and a half minutes.
The Trojans, though, fought back with an 8-0 run as 3-pointers from Maddox Laurendeau and Brady Renault bookended a layup from Walker St. Germain. MDI took its first lead at 29-28 after the two rivals exchanged runs once more, and the home then stretched the lead to five as the first half winded down before Mercier made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the visitors’ deficit to 37-35.
With MDI leading 46-41 midway through the quarter, Ellsworth went on another big run as a layup and three-point play from Mercier, two layups from Hunter Curtis and a 3-pointer from Miles Palmer put the Eagles up 53-46. Yet the Trojans responded once again as an and-one from Porter Isaacs sparked a 9-2 burst that knotted the game at 55 entering the final frame.
“For us, it comes down finishing out plays defensively and taking care of the ball, and when we can do that, we typically get good shots,” Norwood said. “[Ellsworth] made their runs when they created turnovers and got offensive rebounds. When that happens, we get into a little bit of trouble, but when we can take care of it, we can fight our way back.”
Although MDI led 67-61 with a minute and a half remaining, Ellsworth scored the final six points of regulation to force overtime. Yet after the Trojans got back-to-back layups from big man Porter Isaacs to begin the extra period, Grady Wellman-Webster provided the dagger on a 3-pointer with 1:10 remaining.
“We’ve had some tough losses this year, so this one feels great,” Wellman-Webster said. “It’s not about how hard you get hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep going. We were able to keep going in overtime.”
Isaacs (19 points), Maddox Laurendeau (16 points) and Renault (16) led the way for MDI, which also received eight points from Wellman-Webster, six from Charlie Parker, four apiece from St. Germain and Spencer Laurendeau and two from Ethan Merchant. Mercier and Curtis had 33 and 19, respectively, to lead Ellsworth.
Isaacs led MDI in points (11.2) and rebounds (7.6) per game a year ago but has been in and out of the lineup this season with an injury. Back in action after returning for the Trojans in last Tuesday’s game against Washington Academy, the 6-foot-4 senior provided third-quarter and overtime scoring bursts that were crucial to MDI’s win.
“He causes so many issues for the other team because he’s so big and so good,” Norwood said. “You can’t afford to not put two guys on him, and tonight, he made some good plays that were huge for us down the stretch.”
MDI’s victory came on the heels of a 61-34 loss in last Tuesday’s road game against Washington Academy. That defeated followed a shootaround showing that Norwood called “lackadaisical,” but after more focused efforts in the following practice and in their pregame warmup session, the Trojans were well positioned to bounce back against a solid Ellsworth unit.
“We came out super flat [against Washington Academy], and a team like that is going to jump on you if you do that,” Norwood said. “We were not prepared to play that game, and it showed, but we had a good practice last night, and we came out tonight ready to play.”
MDI (2-6) suffered a 47-38 loss in Saturday’s home game against Hampden Academy. Renault made five 3-pointers to finish with a team-high 15 for the Trojans, who added 10 points from St. Germain, nine from Isaacs and two apiece from Merchant and Maddox Laurendeau.
MDI, which was originally scheduled to host Bucksport (4-4) on Tuesday, had that game pushed back to Wednesday ahead of the impending snowstorm. The Trojans will face George Stevens Academy at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, in Blue Hill before hosting Hermon at that time Tuesday, Feb. 23.