Ellsworth’s Dylan Taplin drives to the basket against Mount Desert Island’s Russell Kropff during the first half of a high school boys’ basketball game Feb. 10 in Ellsworth. MDI won the game 74-37. PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

MDI boys endure long wait, beat Ellsworth behind 3-point shooting



ELLSWORTH — After a six-day wait that included a weather postponement, the Mount Desert Island boys’ basketball team was ready to play. Unfortunately, the ceiling wasn’t.

It was 6:45 p.m., and MDI’s road game against Ellsworth was scheduled to be starting in 15 minutes. Instead, the custodial staff at Ellsworth High School was busy putting a giant tarp over the southeast corner of Katsiaficas Gymnasium. The ceiling was leaking water everywhere, and the junior varsity game hadn’t even started yet.

All Justin Norwood’s Trojans wanted to do was take the floor. After a rough stretch in which the former Class B North leaders had lost three out of four games, MDI was desperate to show it could bounce back in time for the playoffs.

It took 90 minutes of JV ball and another 20 for Ellsworth’s Senior Night ceremony, but MDI finally got its chance and made the most of it.

MDI shot 12 of 23 from 3-point range to beat Ellsworth 74-37 in the regular season’s final game Friday. The win gave the Trojans a season sweep of the Eagles.

“The past two weeks or so, they’ve certainly challenged our team,” Norwood said. “We needed to get our step back for the playoffs, and with a crowd like this in a big rivalry game, this was the time to do it.”

Riley Swanson had the hot hand for MDI (15-3) in the first quarter. The senior made three 3-pointers, and Russell Kropff, Derek Collin, Aaron Snurkowski and Graham Good also scored to give the Trojans an eight-point advantage. MDI’s Andrew Phelps and Gus Reeves scored six each for MDI in the second to help them to a 33-15 lead at the break.

The second half was much of the same, though Ellsworth’s injuries caught up with it. The Eagles were already missing Trent Mahon because of an ankle injury suffered last Wednesday, and star senior Bryce Harmon, who suffered one Tuesday but was not about to miss his chance to start on Senior Night, had to sit out the second half with ice on his leg.

On the court, the third and fourth quarters belonged to MDI’s Mac Shea, who scored each of his 11 points in the second half to put the game out of reach. Seven of Shea’s points came in a fourth-quarter run that saw MDI score 22 to send the green half of the gymnasium wild.

Shea and Swanson both scored 11 points for MDI, and Phelps added nine. Zach Harris led Ellsworth 11 with points.

Even though the Trojans had to wait five days, one additional day because of Thursday’s snowstorm and another hour and a half to get the bad taste of the previous two weeks out of their mouths, a shooting performance like this made the wait worth it.

“It was a complete game from us all around, and we kept it up even as it was late in the fourth quarter,” Norwood said. “We had been ready to get back out on that court because we knew we were better than we’ve playing. The players out there, every single one of them delivered tonight.”

The win gives MDI the No. 2 seed in the Class B North tournament. Depending on what happens in the preliminary round, MDI will face either Belfast or Houlton in the quarterfinals.

“Both of those teams are teams who can beat us if we’re not on our game,” Norwood said. “They’re probably a bit better than their records show, and it’s the playoffs now. Everyone you face is going to give it everything they got.”

Ellsworth faced Presque Isle (13-5) on the road Tuesday. Presque Isle won both games against the Eagles in the regular season.

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]