Stout defense powers girls’ quarterfinal win over MCI

BANGOR — The Mount Desert Island High School girls’ basketball team’s senior class has won plenty of games over the years, but life at the Cross Insurance Center hasn’t been nearly as kind to the Trojans.

Three years ago, this year’s seniors were freshman when the second-ranked Trojans were upset by Hermon in the Class B North quarterfinals. Two years ago, a young MDI team fell short against a Houlton squad led by Kolleen Bouchard. Last year, as the No. 3 seed, MDI lost big to eventual state champion Winslow.

“There was not a single kid in that group of seniors that had won a tournament game here at the Cross Center,” MDI head coach Brent Barker said. “They wanted a win here really badly.”

On Saturday, MDI got it. Now, with a playoff win on the big stage behind them, the Trojans are ready for what’s next.

MDI used a stout defensive effort to defeat Maine Central Institute 42-27 in the Class B North quarterfinals. The Trojans allowed just seven points in the second half to turn a tight game into a comfortable win and advance to the semifinals for the first time in five years.

“I think we were even more confident than we thought we would be coming in here,” MDI senior Maddy Candage said. “I got a little nauseous and nervous before, but I don’t think you can help that. Once we got on the floor and could just focus on the playing the game, we knew what we needed to do and did it.”

With Candage scoring the opening basket and Julia Watras adding two more field goals in the span of a minute, top-seeded MDI (17-2) rolled out to a 6-1 start to the game. MCI then fought back to cut the Trojans’ lead to 11-10 before an and-one from Watras gave MDI a 14-10 lead for the first quarter’s final points.

In the second quarter, MDI went up seven points on a 3-pointer from Hannah Chamberlain before Candage and Watras got into foul trouble. That allowed No. 9 MCI (10-10) to claw its way back into game, which the Trojans led 21-20 at halftime.

Yet Candage would mark her return to the game with the first two baskets of the second half before Chamberlain made her third 3-pointer of the game to put the Trojans up 28-20. Although MDI struggled to score for the rest of the quarter, it limited MCI to just a single basket and took a 33-22 lead into the final eight minutes with an Alexis Clarito 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“Ever since our losses to Ellsworth and Hermon, we’ve really stressed coming out early in the second half and being the aggressors,” Barker said. “Tonight, we were up one at halftime and then came out in the second half and took control a little bit. Those two baskets by Maddy really gave us a boost, and we made sure that continued with how well we played on defense.”

That defensive effort continued into the final frame. MCI scored two baskets in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, but the Huskies wouldn’t make another the rest of the way as MDI held them to a single free throw over the final six minutes.

Chamberlain led MDI with 12 points, and Watras joined her in double figures with 11. The Trojans’ other scorers were Candage with eight points, Rachelle Swanson with six and Clarito with five.

Semifinals Wednesday

MDI’s next game will be against No. 5 Winslow (13-6), the defending Class B champion, at 8:35 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20. Winslow defeated fourth-ranked Old Town (14-5) 36-29 earlier Saturday afternoon.

The game will be a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal game, in which Winslow beat MDI 55-34 to bring the Trojans’ season to an end. The two teams did not meet in the regular season or preseason this year.

“They’re a good team, and we have to keep up that intensity we’ve played with since we lost to Ellsworth,” Candage said. “We’ll have a practice or two before then, and we’ll show up to that game motivated and ready to go before we come back here. We’re all really excited to see where we end up.”

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]

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