ELLSWORTH — This feels a little bit more like basketball should.
Fans in the bleachers; high-fives and post-game handshake lines; excitement, not stress or worry, the pervasive feeling surrounding the action. They’re all things that haven’t been present in local gymnasiums in what seems like ages.
In the midst of some warm days, a steamy Katsiaficas Gymnasium might not be the most comfortable setting for games. But after more than a year of uncertainty and a shortened season without spectators in the stands, few watching summer league games are about to complain.
Summer basketball is off and running with Mount Desert Island participating in a 10-team league taking place at Ellsworth High School. The league, which features teams from MDI and seven other schools, is giving players and fans a more familiar taste of a sport that’s been unable to provide its usual fanfare and togetherness over the past year.
The league includes teams from Ellsworth, Bucksport, Mount Desert Island, George Stevens Academy, Sumner, Jonesport-Beals, Narraguagus and Searsport. MDI and Ellsworth are sponsoring two teams each, with one squad of upperclassmen and the other made up of freshmen and sophomores.
Games, which consist of two 20-minute halves with a running clock, began June 25 and are held Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. Those games will run through July 26 with contests set to tip off at 5, 6, 7 and 8 p.m.
To date, contests have been highly competitive. Highlights so far include the MDI 11/12 team defeating GSA 53-50 last Wednesday and the MDI 9/10 team defeating Class D powerhouse Jonesport-Beals 36-24 on Monday.
Effective this month, players and fans are no longer required to have masks in their possession at all times. Such an easing of mask enforcement was put in place for outdoor sports early in the spring season, and with the state’s school-based pandemic mandates expiring June 30, those in gyms can now go maskless as well.
With the Bunny Parady Gymnasium currently undergoing renovations, the MDI team is unable to practice on its own floor for the time being. Summer league play, then, has ensured the team still gets playing time while the gym floor gets stripped down and redone.
“Summertime is really a great time to get better individually,” MDI head coach Justin Norwood said. “Getting into the gym is really important during the summer, but you also need to be able to apply those things. With us not having a gym right now, it’s a great opportunity to still give the kids a chance to play.”
Spectators can attend games for just $1, and snacks and beverages are also available for purchase. A schedule for MDI’s remaining games can be found on the Ellsworth Eagles Basketball Facebook page.