BAR HARBOR — Continuity has been a major theme for both Mount Desert Island High School basketball teams in recent years. This season, things are going to be a bit different.
As Justin Norwood’s boys’ team and Brent Barker’s girls’ squad prepare for their respective 2019-20 campaigns, they are doing so with last year’s large groups of seniors gone and new faces in the ranks.
Yet that doesn’t mean the expectations at MDI haven changed; the Trojans still have tournament dreams. Although their teams might lack the experience that some of their Class B North counterparts have, Norwood and Barker believe they’ll be ready to make up for it.
“We’re MDI still, and that means we’re a tournament team,” Barker said. “We have a huge ceiling, and these kids know that expectation is there and are going to do everything they can to reach it.”
Last season, Barker’s girls rode the No. 1 seed in Class B North to a Northern Maine championship before falling to Gray-New Gloucester in the state title game. Of that group, only one starter, Rachelle Swanson, returns.
The Trojans also return Leah Carroll, Cassie Craig, Olivia Gray and Elizabeth Jones, each of whom saw decent game action 2018-19, as well as Elena Alderman, Emily Carter and Lexi Rich, who were varsity swingers as members of the junior varsity squad.
Those players also helped MDI win the high school girls’ championship in March’s Great Harbor Shootout. Between that win and a host of additions from a JV team that went 17-4 and claimed the Scott Jellison Memorial Tournament title, Barker has plenty of reasons for optimism.
“We still have kids who got to experience all of that, and they’re hungry and want to get back there,” Barker said. “We’re still pretty inexperienced, but those players know what they have to live up to, and they want to make a name for themselves.”
MDI began preseason play Saturday at Nokomis High School with a win over Nokomis and a narrow loss to Oceanside. The Trojans will play Thanksgiving tournament games against George Stevens Academy (11 a.m.) and Narraguagus (3:30 p.m.) Friday, Nov. 29.
The MDI boys’ team finds itself in a similar position as its top-four scorers from last year also all graduated. The team’s No. 5 scorer, Steven Pierce, transferred to Fort Kent.
Yet Norwood’s team does return Porter Isaacs, Cadin Lunt and Charlie Parker, each of whom finished last season with double-digit points. The Trojans also bring back Jack DaCorte, Ethan Merchant and Brady Renault, who were JV-varsity swingers last year, and will add a strong group of reinforcement from a JV squad that, like the girls’ team, won the Scott Jellison Memorial Tournament to finish 17-4.
“When I take a look at this team, I see a good bunch of athletes,” Norwood said. “We’re very lucky to have such a deep program that continues to give us kids who are ready to come in and compete at a high level.”
The MDI boys were scheduled to begin their preseason slate Tuesday at Hampden Academy. The Trojans will play Sumner (11 a.m.) and Fryeburg Academy (3:30 p.m.) as part of a Thanksgiving tournament Saturday, Nov. 30, before closing out the preseason against Brewer at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3.
Both the boys’ and girls’ teams will open the season on the road against Houlton on Friday, Dec. 7. The boys’ team will tip off the season at 3 p.m., and the girls will follow at 4:30.
“Right now, constant improvement is all we can ask for as we build up to that first game,” Norwood said. “We’re hoping to see more of that before Houlton, and then we’ll be ready to go.”