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.
On the hottest day of the year, a steamy Katsiaficas Gymnasium might not have been the most comfortable setting for games. Yet after more than a year of uncertainty and a shortened season without spectators in the stands to watch, few watching summer league games at Ellsworth High School are about to complain.
Summer basketball is off and running with a 10-team league taking place at Ellsworth High School. The league, which features teams from five local 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. Ellsworth and MDI are sponsoring two teams each with one squad consisting of upperclassmen and the other consisting of freshmen and sophomores.
Games, which consist of two 20-minute halves with a running clock, began last Friday 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. each night.
To date, those contests have been highly competitive. Highlights from the first week of action included the Ellsworth 9/10 team beating Searsport 40-36 and the MDI 11/12 team escaping with a 53-50 win over GSA after the latter’s last-ditch 3-pointer drew iron.
Effective Thursday, 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, those in gyms can now go maskless as well.
The ebbing of the pandemic and coinciding relaxation of restrictions have made the atmosphere a less stressful one for players and coaches. Instead of policing masking and facing the constant specter of a potential shutdown, those individuals can instead focus on basketball.
“The winter was really hard because we went in every day not knowing if we were going to get shut down or not,” GSA head coach Dwayne Carter said. “Last summer was also tough on us because we weren’t allowed to really do anything. It’s a much different feeling now.”
Spectators can attend games for just $1, and snacks and beverages are also available for purchase. A schedule for the remaining games can be found on the Ellsworth Eagles Basketball Facebook page.