Trojans find formula for success

BAR HARBOR — With just five games remaining in the regular season, the undefeated Mount Desert Island High School varsity boys’ basketball team is poised for a competitive postseason.

So far, the 13-0 team has unseeded No. 1 Hermon High School, squashed opponents by 30 points or more but also had its fair share of close contests.

The ingredients for this team’s winning record have been a mix of preparedness, talent and focus.

Prior to every game, Head Coach Justin Norwood watches footage of that night’s opponent to learn their playing style.

“We are trying to figure out what their offenses and defenses are,” he said. “We get their stats from the Big East, and I try to do my best to figure out who can shoot, who can rebound.”

Using a computer program that tracks every stat imaginable, Norwood is able to view last season’s matchups to find the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

The night of the game, Norwood’s players watch footage and write down their assignments for the night, whether it is to close out long on a good shooter or stop a good rebounder before he gets to the basket.

One of the strongest aspects of this year’s team has been its full-court press defense.

For inspiration, Norwood watches old clips of Head Coach Shaka Smart’s days at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).

“His pressing game at VCU is similar to what we do,” said Norwood. “They used to press all the time, and I’ve researched his style of play. I think he is top notch.”

Smart led the Rams to a College Basketball Invitational Championship and the school’s first trip to the NCAA Final Four tournament in 2011.

Now that Smart coaches at the University of Texas, his style has changed some, but Norwood still watches his games. West Virginia University is another team whose play Norwood appreciates.

As for the talent on this year’s team, there is plenty of it. Several players consistently score in the double digits.

“We have a lot of kids who can play basketball,” said Norwood. “We have a lot of talented players who can play in the next level.”

But it isn’t one individual player who can make or break the game.

The Trojans are a visibly tight-knit group who celebrate each of their teammates’ 3-pointers like it’s the winning shot of the NBA Finals.

Norwood also credits the MDI community for rallying behind the team.

“We have a community that’s really involved in the program, and it takes way more than the high school coaches to make this team successful,” said Norwood. “We are in a lucky spot. We have a lot of people who care and know what [the team] is capable of.”

Despite the fact that the Maine Principals Association playoffs are just weeks away, that’s not what the Trojans are thinking about. The boys are focused on an away game against Presque Isle High School on Friday, a team the Trojans handily beat last week 90-67.

That focus has been a cornerstone of the Trojans’ success this season.

“I am just thinking about the next game,” he said. “I think if you read about a lot of great teams, that’s the mentality they take.

“We focus mostly on the next game and don’t really talk about a lot more than that.”

Earlier in the season, Norwood said focusing on one game, such as the state championship game, is a dangerous attitude. It’s more about the journey the team takes to get there rather than the final game of the season, he said, like last postseason, when MDI went 14-4 in the regular season and lost in the quarterfinals to Lake Region High School, the eventual Class B state champions. That loss did not negate all of the success the team had during the regular season.

“Every team in the state wants to be the state champions,” Norwood said. “Anything can happen in the tournament, and that’s the crazy thing.”


Taylor Bigler Mace

Taylor Bigler Mace

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Taylor covers sports and maritimes for the Islander. As a native of Texas, she is an unapologetic Dallas Cowboys fan. [email protected]
Taylor Bigler Mace

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